Industry News

Online Defensive Driving Courses: Options, Benefits and Impact

By Cait Etherington
September 06, 2018

If you’ve ever purchased car insurance, you’ve likely been invited to complete a defensive driving course. While not true in the past, today these courses are generally completed online. In most cases, successfully completing an online defensive driving course holds a notable financial incentive: a 10% discount on car insurance. But do defensive driving courses completed online actually reduce accidents on the road?

Finding an Online Defensive Driving Course

Since each state has its own approved defensive driving courses, it is important to first determine which courses have been modified and approved for your specific state. To get started, visit the website of any nationwide car insurance provider. Most will have a list of courses by state. For example, if you live in New York State, you can complete the American Safety Council, National Safety Council, or New York Safety Program. If you complete any one of these courses, you can expect your insurance premiums to go down.

Do Online Defensive Driving Courses Have an Impact?

Kelly Carr has been driving since 1992, but like many New Yorkers, she has never owned a car due to the fact that she is among the few Americans who lives in a city where car ownership is rarely necessary. Nevertheless, with two teenagers to teach how to drive and a desire to be able to spend more time escaping the city, she recently bought her first car and to lower insurance cost, she also took a six-hour online defensive driving course. But was it worth it?

“Honestly, I found the course a bit frustrating,” said Carr, “I can read quickly and still absorb a lot of information, but the course I took actually not let me move forward to the next page when I finished reading. In fact, it locked each page three times longer than required.” But did she learn anything new? “Since I learned to drive in another state, it was useful to review New York State traffic laws, and there were certainly some things about car maintenance that I had never thought about. I really did not need to spend nearly two hours reading slides telling me not to drink and drive, which I honestly didn’t realize is still such a problem. But sure, it was a helpful course. I did find myself driving more cautiously after completing the course, especially in intersections”

Carr is not alone in her assessment. Anecdotally, most drivers find online defensive driving courses to be dry, slow, and at times, redundant, but not entirely without merit. If an accident does happen, the consensus is to contact a car accident lawyer as soon as possible, taking a defensive course is rarely taken up. But is there statistical evidence that online defensive driving courses actually reduce accidents?

Evaluating the Research

Defensive driving courses (DDC) were first introduced in the mid 1960s by the National Safety Council. About a decade after their introduction, a large-scale study was carried out to assess their impact. At the time, the study’s authors found that DDC graduates who participated in the study (this entailed completing a follow-up questionnaire) reported “significant reductions of 32.8 per cent fewer accidents in the year after DDC as compared to the year before.” The authors also noted, “The study group respondent accident rate was also significantly lower than the comparison group rate. Further analysis of self report data showed that reductions following DDC were greater for males than females and were less for those drivers 24 yr and under with females in this age group showing the least reductions after DDC.” What the DDC didn’t appear to impact significant were the type, severity, or manner of collision being reported.

While there is evidence dating back to the mid-1970s that suggest defensive driving courses do help reduce accidents on the road, while working on this article, eLearning Inside News could find no studies that specifically focus on the impact of online defensive driving courses.