Virginia Driver Improvement Courses
Should I sign up for a driver improvement class?
Before taking any classes or programs contact a local traffic attorney. The jurisdiction you are in, the type of speeding ticket you are charged with and your driving record all play a role in determining which, if any,driver improvement course will benefit your case. To make sure you attend the right class at the right time you should consult a local traffic attorney.
It is important that you take the right type of course. In Virginia there are four types of DMV-approved Driver Improvement Courses. In addition there are AAA courses, the VASAP Aggressive Driver program, and many other local, private, and out-of-state programs.
The jurisdiction you are in often determines which course, if any, you should take. In Prince William County traffic court, the judge may dismiss some traffic tickets contingent upon the driver having a perfect record and completing a DMV-approved driver improvement course. Arlington County traffic court operates its own program. Other counties, such as Fairfax County, offer no programs for reducing traffic tickets after the completion of a driver improvement course.
You should contact a local traffic attorney to find out whether your case qualifies for a program before taking any courses. Some programs are available only to drivers who have not already taken a course. Consequently, preemptively taking a course may inadvertently disqualify you from the traffic court program. Be sure to talk to your attorney before registering for a driver improvement course.
Additionally, talk to a local traffic attorney before agreeing to enroll in a court program. If you received a ticket as a result of a car accident, you may expose yourself to a law suit from the other parties to the accident by attending the program. Consult a traffic attorney before agreeing to any court-ordered driver improvement programs.
Even if you do not qualify for a program, your attorney may advise you to take a driver improvement course as a means of improving your driving record or as mitigating evidence at sentencing. Virginia drivers can erase five demerit points from their record every two years by taking a voluntary DMV-approved driver improvement course. This course can improve your driving record prior to trial by increasing your point balance. A better point balance often means a weaker punishment. If your attorney believes that this is the best strategy for you, take the class as soon as possible so that there is the greatest likelihood of the positive points appearing on your record before trial.
If I am not licensed in Virginia can I take a Virginia Driver Improvement Class?
You can take the Virginia DMV classes even if you do not have a Virginia Driver’s license, but the class will not affect an out-of-state driving record. An out-of-state driver may also have a hard time finding a place to take the test at the end of the class if they do not live in or near Virginia. If you are not a Virginia license holder, you may want to take a driver improvement course from your own state. However, you will need to do your own research to determine how those out-of-state classes will affect your license and/or your record.
If you need to take a driving class but cannot arrange to take a Virginia DMV Driver Improvement Class because you live out-of-state, you may want to take a AAA driver course. https://midatlantic.aaa.com/default.aspx?node=DrivingPrograms/Overview&
Contact a local traffic attorney before doing this to find out whether one of the AAA programs is right for your case.
What are the types of courses?
There are several different types of classes. The most common classes are the four DMV-approved Driver Improvement Courses: 1) court-ordered 2) DMV-ordered 3) voluntary (for points) 4) auto insurance. The content of these four classes may or may not be different depending on who you take the classes from.
The court-ordered courses should be taken only if your attorney or a traffic court judge orders you to do so.
The DMV-ordered course must be taken if you get twelve demerit points or more in twelve months or 18 demerit points or more in 24 months. In that situation the DMV will send you a letter ordering you to take a DMV driving improvement course. The DMV-ordered class can be taken as many times as the DMV orders (not just once every two years).
The voluntary DMV driver improvement course will add five positive points to your Virginia DMV record. This class can be taken for points only once every two years. These five bonus points will not help prevent a license suspension in the case of excessive demerit point accumulation (e.g. if you get twelve points in twelve months and you take the voluntary DMV course you will still be placed on DMV probation but your total point balance will be five points higher).
The DMV driver improvement insurance course is for reducing your insurance premium. Virginia law states that drivers who take these classes are to be given a reduction in their auto insurance premiums by any insurance carrier that insures vehicles in Virginia.
All four of these classes consist of eight hours of lecture with an exam at the end. The exam is not difficult as long as you attend the class and pay attention. The DMV-approved driver improvement courses can be taken in-person or online (the online option is only available if you are 20 or older). For a list of approved in-person class locations in your area click here (http://www.dmv.state.va.us/webdoc/citizen/drivers/comclinics.asp). For a list of online driver improvement courses click here (http://www.dmv.state.va.us/webdoc/citizen/drivers/pcbased_cliniclisting.asp).
The Virginia Aggressive Driving Course
The Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP, or ASAP for short) offers courses that deal with aggressive driving as well as substance abuse. The aggressive driver course is intended to help prevent road rage and should only be taken if your case involves issues of aggressive driving and/or road rage. The Aggressive Driving program costs about $75 and is typically a four-hour course. Some ASAP programs offer a twelve-hour program that combines the eight-hour DMV-approved driver improvement course and the four-hour aggressive driver course.
Because this program is geared towards aggressive drivers, the ASAP aggressive driver program is not useful for all speeding tickets. Please consult a local attorney before attending an ASAP aggressive driver course. To locate a local ASAP course go to http://www.vasap.state.va.us/index.htm.