Defensive Driving Courses in California

Defensive driving courses in California are available to teach drivers additional road skills and advanced driving techniques including such things as avoiding accidents under extreme weather conditions. Unlike other states where taking one of these classes can help reduce driving points or auto insurance rates, the benefits in California are much more limited. Only drivers of age 55 and over are eligible for an auto insurance discount after successful completion of an approved mature driver improvement course. The size of this discount will depend on your specific carrier and may not be available with all insurance companies. Younger drivers can still enroll in a defensive driving course but will not be eligible for any reduction in their premiums.

Mature Driver Improvement Course in California

A mature driver improvement course is meant for drivers age 55 and above to refresh their knowledge on the latest driving regulations as well as possible new safe driving techniques, since the last time they had to look at traffic laws. A California-approved course will include at least the minimum curriculum guidelines stated by the California legislature and minimum total instruction time.

To make these classes more convenient, the state amended its laws in 2007 to allow the offering of online only courses. Enrolling in the online course allows consumers to go through the materials at their own pace with much greater flexibility in scheduling.

These are the types of lessons in a mature driver improvement course in California:

  • Impairment while driving: How impairment of visual and audio perception affects driving performance and how to compensate for that impairment
  • DUI: The effects of fatigue, medications, and alcohol on driving performance, when experienced alone or in combination, and precautionary measures to prevent or offset ill effects
  • Driver’s Safety Techniques: Updates on rules of the road and equipment, including, but not limited to, safety belts and safe and efficient driving techniques under present day road and traffic conditions
  • Plan Ahead Before Traveling: How to plan travel time and select routes for safety and efficiency
  • Safety Driving Judgment: How to make crucial decisions in dangerous, hazardous, and unforeseen situations

Additionally, there are two types of mature driver improvement courses: an initial or first-time course, and a second renewal course, which have different course lengths. After you take the first course and receive your certificate of completion, you're eligible for a mature driver improvement discount on your auto insurance, which lasts three years. After those three years expire, you'll have to take renewal courses to reinstate the discount.

  • Initial Course Min. Class Time: The initial mature driver improvement course shall include no less than 400 min. (or more than 6 hours) of instruction, and shall not exceed 25 students per single day of instruction or 30 students per two days of instruction
  • Renewal Course Min. Class Time: The renewal mature driver improvement course shall include no less than 240 min. (or 4 hours) of instruction

Mature Driver Improvement Course Providers in California

Note that, other than the providers listed in Table 1 below, there are other licensed courses approved by the DMV. However, some courses may not be provided regularly, since we have seen some providers – such as regional police departments – offering courses at specific and random times during the year. The providers listed below all have an online registration.

While California mandated that costs of approved mature driver improvement course may not exceed $30, plus the $1 charge for a DMV certificate, prices range between free of charge to $35. Prices below are for online classes for the initial course. Initial courses can cost about $2 to $3 more than renewal classes because of the longer timeframe.

Table 1: Cost of Mature Driver Improvement Course by Provider

  • fee for the DMV certificate

Defensive Driver Training Online by the Department of General Services

For the rest of the Californian drivers, taking a state-approved defensive driving course most likely won’t contribute to an insurance discount. However, it may still be a good investment towards on-the-road safety, especially if the course is free of charge. These types of lessons may improve your reaction and judgment on the road, and prolong or contribute to a safe driving record - that is one of the most important factors in how companies determine their quotes.

In 2011 the Department of General Services (DGS) started offering free online Defensive Driver Training (DDT). After successful completion, students will be able to get a Self-Certification Acknowledgement Certificate. Although this online course was originally meant for government employees, it is also free and available to all who have internet access. The Online DDT Course by the DGS can be found here: http://www.dgs.ca.gov/orim/Programs/DDTOnlineTraining.aspx

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