For many motorists, their last driving class was back when they first got their license, and chances are that was many moons ago. The fact is, no matter how skilled or experienced you think you are behind the wheel, a refresher course couldn’t hurt. Of course, a possible reduction on your auto insurance is a nice incentive as well.
That’s where the AAA Defensive Driving course comes in. I attended a class, and here is what I learned from my experience.
Click here to learn more about AAA Defensive Driving courses and to find out if there is an opportunity to lower your auto insurance rate in your state.
About the AAA Defensive Driving Course
The nationally-recognized AAA Defensive Driving course is designed to provide the latest safety information and tips regarding traffic laws and basic rules of the road. The six-hour course can be taken in a classroom or online and depending on the state, completion of a program may count towards an insurance discount or violation point reduction.
In New York, where I took the class, a AAA Defensive Driving course certificate of completion can be presented to your insurance company for 10 percent off collision, liability and no-fault premiums every year for three years for the principal vehicle operator. Drivers can also receive a reduction of up to four points from their driving record acquired within 18 months before the class.
For AAA Northeast members in other states, similar auto insurance benefits are also available in Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Jersey, but not in Massachusetts. Click here to learn more about what is offered in the state that you are licensed in.
In the classroom
For two consecutive Thursday nights after work, I went to a local hotel to take the course. I enrolled online and chose to take it over two three-hour sessions instead of all at once. It was a full class and appeared to be a familiar practice for some, who return every three years to maintain their car insurance benefits.
My instructor was a retired police officer who said he has been teaching the AAA Driver Improvement course for 14 years. He spoke frankly but friendly and was undeniably knowledgeable about safety and road laws. He began with the question, “What causes crashes?” And from there continued with an eight-chapter workbook and video to answer that question and offer recommendations for prevention.
Topics covered included tips and reminders on vehicle maintenance, what to do in an emergency, traffic signs and road markings, and other basic principles such as avoiding road rage, drowsy driving and impaired driving. After each chapter, there was a short quiz, which the class took and discussed together.
We all consider ourselves good drivers, but there is always something new to learn. Cars and traffic continue to evolve over the years, and so the AAA Defensive Driving course is constantly changing with them. As suspected, distracted driving and texting while driving were some of the top themes touched upon, as well as understanding new vehicle technologies such as blind spot sensors and backup cameras.
Some of the traditional road “rules” and old standbys most of us learned in driver’s ed class have also been rethought. Remember the old 10 and 2 mantra for where to put your hands on the steering wheel? 9 and 3 or 8 and 4 is now the recommended placement as it’s better suited for now-standard power steering.
Some people could really use a defensive driving course, I thought, as I was driving home from the class and watched someone speed their way down a one-way side street. The moment only solidified what the instructor had been stressing the whole time – that being a good driver is not just about your own safety but the safety of others, and that awareness of your own actions is just as important as being alert to what is happening around you.
The course does not take much time, it’s not difficult and it’s useful. And the knowledge that you walk away with – both new and refreshed – will help to keep the roads a little bit safer for everyone.
Whether you take it for the insurance benefit, point reduction or simply because you want to feel safer on the road, the principles taught in the AAA Defensive Driving course are valuable for every driver. The course is especially encouraged for teen drivers and senior drivers, who are both more likely to be in a crash.
The AAA Defensive Driving course can be taken in a classroom or online. It is open to everyone, although AAA members are charged a lower fee.
What area of driving do you think is the most important to brush up on? Tell us in the comments below!