Regardless of how well you are able to drive, you cannot control the actions of other drivers or the world around you. You will inevitably have to deal with aggressive drivers, inclement weather, physical obstacles on the roads and breakdowns. These factors can all affect not only your own safety but also the safety of any passengers riding with you.

That’s why a defensive driving course can be an important part of your overall education concerning cars, and driving in general. A defensive driving course can teach you all of the safe ways to handle various situations, such as the ones listed above, as well as drivers with road rage, fatigue and other types of stress that you may experience. Most courses also cover what’s going on in your head when you drive, addressing such factors as quick reflexes, fear and other emotions and decision making.

A good defensive driving course can also potentially get you a discount on your car insurance in many cases. The cost of car insurance has risen steadily over the past few years and this trend is likely to continue, in correlation to the number of accidents caused by distracted driving.

Benefits of defensive driving courses

Who can benefit from a defensive driving course?

Most drivers who take a defensive driving course will benefit from the information or techniques taught in the course. Teenage drivers in particular can probably learn the most from this type of course, as they have the least amount of experience driving a car. The World Health Organization indicates that car accidents are a leading cause of death for both children and young drivers, so a defensive driving course can help teenagers to learn good driving habits early on.

Most insurance companies will also give teens or young adult drivers a discount on their auto insurance when the driver shows proof of course completion. The specific discount amount varies by company and region. Some courses are longer and more comprehensive than others and may therefore cost more, but some states and companies may require a more thorough course before issuing a discount.

A defensive driving course can also be a good idea if you have a few tickets on your driving record. You can often reduce or eliminate points on your record by taking one of these courses. Be sure to find out what legal requirements your defensive driving class has to meet in order to help clean up your record (your car insurance agent should be able to help you with this). This course will also help you to become a better driver in general and refresh your overall driving knowledge.

What is covered in the defensive driving courses?

The exact material that is covered in these courses will vary slightly from one state and provider to another, but the majority of defensive driving classes will contain at least the following material:

  • Car crashes – Most courses will cover the main reasons why car crashes occur. The course will also go over the emotional impact and financial losses that are associated with car crashes. Most courses will also cover the dynamics that happen inside a car when it crashes, such as how everyone is thrown around in the car. They will teach drivers how to protect themselves from the impact if possible and also how to minimize injuries by wearing seat belts.
  • Psychological factors – Many thoughts fill a driver’s head while on the road. This element of the course takes a closer look at physiological factors such as fatigue, road rage, irritability and various types of mental stress. It also shows drivers how to maintain a positive attitude while driving and stay more focused on the road both in front of and behind them.
  • Human frailties – The course will typically go over the various types of dangerous driving that come with the driver’s failure to control themselves, such as drunk driving and road rage. Drivers must be aware that they can encounter drivers in this category and learn how to deal with them.
  • Safety equipment – Most courses will cover the basics of car safety features such as airbags, seat belts, child safety seats and headrests.
  • Crash Prevention – Most defensive driver courses will cover the many ways in which crashes can be prevented, including:
    • Scanning the roadway and adapting to surroundings
    • The two-second rule for following distances
    • Vehicle’s stopping distance
    • Reaction distance
    • Environment hazards
    • Vehicle emergencies
    • Sharing the road
    • Passing and necessary clear distance
    • Right of way
    • Speed adjustments and railroad crossings
  • State traffic laws – Courses will also typically go over any state-specific laws that apply to the student, such as the state’s policy on texting while driving.

In general, defensive driving courses take between 4 and 8 hours to complete. Some have a comprehensive test at the end while others only test over each module. You can look up the courses that are available in your state online to see what’s available. The cost for this type of course ranges anywhere from $20 to $100, depending on the state and provider.

What is a defensive driving course?

Defensive driving courses are offered both as live classes and online courses. There are various advantages and disadvantages to either option, particularly given your local COVID restrictions, so be sure to consider your own schedule and circumstances before selecting a course.

Advantages of in-person classes

  1. Live teaching – if you attend a class in person, then you can ask the teacher questions on the spot and get additional tips that may not be found in an online course.
  2. Accountability – If you study better with structure and accountability, then a live class may help you to get through the course in a timely manner.
  3. Community support – You may benefit from asking questions or hearing the questions of your classmates.

Advantages of online classes

  1. Efficiency – With an online class, you can go at your own pace, which means that you may be able to finish much more quickly than you could in a live class.
  2. Convenience – You can take an online class at any time from anywhere. Just log in from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
  3. Cost – An online class may be cheaper than a live class, because of not having a paid instructor.

Other reasons to take a defensive driving course

If you have been ordered by the court to take a defensive driving course, then you will likely not be able to get a discount on your auto insurance. But taking a course may allow you to keep your driver’s license, or remove points from your driving record. This course is also recommended on general principle, as it can show you ways to increase your safety while promoting safe driving patterns that you could leverage for other discounts.

Insurance companies that offer defensive driving discounts

Company Age requirement Discount offered
Geico 50+ Varies by state
Nationwide 55+ 10%
State Farm N/A 5-10%, varies by state
Esurance Varies by state 10%
Allstate N/A 10%, Varies by state
Farmers Varies by age Approx. 10%
The Hartford N/A Up to 10%
Liberty Mutual N/A Up to 5%
Progressive N/A About 5%
USAA N/A About 5%

States that offer online courses for defensive driving