Traffic school on information superhighway
Cook County, Ill., joins several other areas across the USA in
offering online courses in driver safety that save time and money
By Debbie Howlett
CHICAGO - Wiping a traffic violation
off your driving record used to require
spending a Saturday in a classroom
with several other scofflaws listening to
arousing lecture on defensive driving.
Traffic courts across the nation are
turning to online driver-safety courses
to mitigate the time, expense and
personnel costs of those traffic safety
Cook County, which includes
Chicago, last week joined a handful of
counties in California, Florida, Texas
and Virginia that offer traffic school via
the Internet. Nevada and Arizona are
expected to put courses online soon.
The computer class offers the same
information and requires passing the
same tests as the classroom program -
but without the classroom.
"People are much busier these days,
and the Internet offers the same
information in a easier-to-use format,"
says Judge Patrick McGann, the
supervising judge in Chicago traffic
court who pushed for the online classes.
Traffic school traditionally has
offered first-time offenders a chance to
clean up their driving records. By
taking the class and remaining ticket-free
for a time, a driver can have a
conviction expunged or points erased.
Taking the class also can prevent
insurance rates from rising as much as
The content of the online version is
nearly identical to the classroom
version. It offers reminders about traffic
laws and pointers on defensive driving.
The test is not much different from a
driver's license exam.
"The key to it is, traffic school
exposes people to important
information that may
be there but just in the back of your
mind," McGann says. "It reinforces
what you learned in drivers ed all those
years ago and gives the information
The National Safety Council, which
helped Chicago develop its program,
has been teaching driver-safety classes
to industrial clients - those with fleets
of vehicles - by video and online for the
past several years. California first
started online traffic school two years
ago, and the other states joined in the
past few months.
Neil Boot of the safety council
cautions that the classroom has
advantages: An instructor can explain
confusing concepts immediately, and
students can learn from one another.
Nevertheless, he expects the online idea
to snowball as more drivers hear about
"At some point, it'll catch on, and
there will be almost no more classroom
teaching.” he says.
Among the dozen or so private online
suppliers, TrafficlO1.com has a click-on
map of the nation even though
California is the only state - now - that
accepts such private classes. In two
years, the company has had 10,000
clients at $19.95 each.
Eric Creditor of TrafficSchool.com
says people are happy to pay. ''The
responses we've been receiving have
been incredible," he says. "People like
the interactivity. It's not sitting and
staring at the walls."
In Chicago, no one has yet completed
the online certification program, which
began last week, but courts are notifying
people of the option, and McGann
expects it soon will be swamped by
some of the more than 160,000 drivers a
year who take the class.
"I have to say, it's the way I would
go," he says.
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