defensive driving courseHere at Larson Law Firm, we’re big believers in accountability. When a driver does something wrong and it hurts someone else, we believe that driver should be held to account for his or her actions.

But we also believe that everyone makes mistakes, and that folks deserve a chance to learn from them. As it turns out, so does the state of North Dakota. Under our laws, you can seek something called “alternative disposition to a traffic ticket” if you’ve accumulated too many points on your license. So if you’re a bit of a lead foot, or your teen driver broke the rules regarding his or her license restrictions, or even if you took off on your motorcycle without your helmet (don’t do this), you have an option to avoid getting more points by taking a defensive driving course.

Here’s what the law actually says:

An individual issued a summons or notice to appear under section 39-07-07 may appear before the court and elect to attend a driver training course approved by the director in lieu of entry of points on the licensee’s driving record. An individual who elects to attend the course must so notify the court at the time of posting the bond, which is forfeited even though an election is made under this section. The individual who makes the election shall pay the driver training course fee to the driver training course sponsor. If an individual elects to attend the course, the point penalty of five points or fewer for the violation by section 39-06.1-10 may not be assessed if proof of completion of the course is presented to the department within thirty days after the individual notifies the court of the election.

In non-lawyer language, it means that if you got a traffic ticket worth up to 5 points and you complete this course (make sure to notify the Court you plan on doing it), then the Court won’t assess any points on your license. (You can actually take the course for any reason, and get up to 3 points removed.)

Note that there are some exceptions. You can’t take the course if your ticket was 6 or more points, and you can only take it once in 12 months. There are also a number of offenses that are exempted from this option, so check this list to make sure you’re actually allowed to take the class.

About the defensive driving course

The course is offered through the North Dakota Safety Council (NDSC), a non-profit organization. It takes five hours to complete, and it’s done entirely online. It’ll run you $55 (NDSC members get a little discount), though that price rises to $75 if the course is mandated by the Court or the Department of Transportation. There’s a four hour version, too, but it’s a little pricier.

And there are some other classes you can take, too. For example, this one is approved by the NDDOT for a 3-point reduction (and it’s only $25), and there’s another one that says you can get unlimited retakes. There are a lot of different options, but make sure the course you take offers point reduction; some of them are only approved for insurance purposes, so you won’t get any points off your record.

If you’re taking this class to avoid getting some points on your license, you only have 30 days to register and take it. So you should check the schedule on the NDSC website to pick your date sooner rather than later.

Don’t forget to learn the lesson the course is teaching

There are a number of tickets, as we mentioned, that are exempt from this option. And if you look at them, you’ll see things like “aggravated reckless driving” and “leaving the scene of an accident.” The short version is this: there’s a difference between a mistake and being dangerous on the road. Doing 75mph on the highway at 11:00pm is a lot different from doing 45mph in a school zone at 8:00am. The chances are pretty good that the only person you might hurt in the first example is yourself, but in the second example? You could critically injure a child. Drag racing, drunk driving, fleeing the scene and starting a police chase – these types of actions are more than negligent; they’re dangerous to a lot of people. That’s why we say when you take the test, remember that it’s not just about avoiding points on your license; it’s about learning your lesson and being safer on the road. If it was just about the points, you’d be able to take it more than once a year, you know?

Remember, too, that there are times where a bad decision by you won’t be the only factor in a devastating crash. If you’re speeding on a highway and there are others on the road, and those other drivers aren’t doing what they’re supposed to, either, then you may not be able to avoid an accident even if it was the other guy’s fault. This is doubly true when it comes to emergency services: if you’re goofing around and you end up hitting a tow truck or an ambulance, even, well – now you could be hurt, the emergency services person can be hurt, and the original victim’s treatment can be delayed.

We hope this information about the defense driving course helps you. Points can add up fast, and you can end up paying more for your car insurance each year if you have too many of them. But we also hope you get something out of the course. Remember: you can’t control other people on the road, so the best you can do is take steps to protect yourself.

Larson Law Firm, P.C. has offices in Minot, Bismarck, and Fargo. If you are injured in a car accident anywhere in North Dakota, give us a call to learn more about how we can help. Call us or fill out our contact form today. Your initial consultation is free.