Defensive Driving Resource

Traffic Schools Are NOT Run by the DMV

“You mean this isn’t the DMV?”

That’s a question we hear quite a bit at Driver Training Associates.  So why do people think that we’re the DMV?  It must be because we provide traffic school, driver education, and license reinstatement courses.  We’re not exactly sure why so many people assume that traffic schools and other similar programs are run by the state Department of Motor Vehicles, but hopefully this article will set the record straight on that subject.

It is important to understand that when you take a traffic school course, driver improvement clinic, or defensive driving course, you are paying and receiving the information from a private company, not a state or governmental agency. There are a few not-for-profit agencies offering courses, but the bottom line is that it is not the State which is providing the course. In most cases, State DMV’s or other regulatory bodies approve the traffic school courses and sometimes monitor the activities of the private companies that offer them, but these entities do not offer the courses themselves.

In order for an online traffic school course to be approved by the State or DMV, it must be no less than the state-mandated minimum time and must contain some form of security (such as personal identity questions). Courses must also include a final exam (either online or proctored), and student completions must be electronically reported to the state agency by the course provider. Many other requirements also apply and differ from state to state.

For classroom traffic school courses, the instructors must be properly certified and recertified, the course curriculum must be presented as it was approved by the State, completions must be electronically reported to the DMV or other appropriate state agency, etc.

The private companies that offer traffic school courses are often called “providers,” “vendors,” or “sponsors.”  These companies have written their own courses and have received approval from the state DMV or other regulatory agency.  If you visit an official State DMV website, you can often find a listing of approved traffic school, insurance discount, or drivers ed providers.

  • In New York, drivers can take a classroom Point Insurance Reduction Program (commonly known as “PIRP” or an “accident prevention course”). Approved PIRP providers are listed on the New York DMV website at

For other states, see your government listings in the front of your telephone book or search online for your state’s DMV website. When selecting a course sponsor, be careful to search on the OFFICIAL state agency page. These pages will always contain the State Seal or other official instruments and will usually end in a “.gov” extension.

Sites that are run by private companies are NOT allowed to display the State Seal or other official instruments. Beware of sites that contain official-sounding terms but no State Seal, such as “stateofflorida,” “dmv,” or “dots,” as many of these sites are run by private traffic schools that wish to deceive the public into thinking they are somehow affiliated with a state regulatory agency. If you search around on these sites, you will probably find some small print stating that the site belongs to a private company.

A few traffic school providers that own their own programs license small private traffic schools to deliver their courses in a classroom setting. The instructors at these traffic schools are trained and certified by their provider (and also sometimes by the State). These instructors must follow State and company guidelines on such matters as proper course presentation, time allotment, breaks, state traffic laws, etc. It is the traffic school’s responsibility to report the completions to the state agency. It is the student’s responsibility to report the completion to their clerk of court, usually by turning in a completion certificate.

Most providers also offer their state approved course online directly, without the use of an outside agency. There are states, such as New York, where classroom courses exist, but online courses do not yet exist. In New York, the online delivery method has been approved by the New York DMV, but no providers have as of yet been approved to begin offering the course online.

To recap, while a state DMV or court might require you to take a traffic school or driver improvement course, it should be understood that it is not the State itself that is providing the course. The course itself will be provided by a private traffic school regulated by the State, so choose wisely if you have received a traffic ticket!

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