New York Defensive Driving Courses Now Online
29 May 2009
Two interesting developments took place over the past week where New York drivers are concerned. First, New Yorkers learned from a GMAC study that they are not just among the worst drivers in the nation when it comes to basic knowledge of road rules, they ARE the worst. Second, the New York DMV announced the approval of the state's first online New York defensive driving courses. Looks like this couldn't have happened at a better time. (In case you're wondering, Idaho and Wisconsin drivers tied for first place.)
Most states, including New York, already recognize the benefits that defensive driving courses can provide through a reduction in traffic crash fatalities, injuries, and property damage. While states such as California, Florida, Texas, and Virginia have provided an online option for driver training for years now, New York has traditionally offered its accident prevention course only through DMV approved classroom agencies.
In New York, the State approved 6-hour defensive driving course is referred to as the Point Insurance Reduction Program, or PIRP. The majority of drivers who attend a PIRP course do so to collect a 10% reduction in their insurance premium. The reduction is mandatory, meaning New York state law requires that insurance companies give a discount of at least 10% to any licensed driver who completes the accident prevention course. The course won't keep your rates from increasing for tickets and violations you've received, but it will make a sizable dent in a typically high New York auto insurance rate.
In addition to the insurance reduction benefit, New York drivers who attend a PIRP course receive a point reduction on their driving record. When they complete the course and their completion is reported to DMV, DMV will remove up to four points from their record for any offenses committed within the past 18 months. The point reduction cannot be used as a "credit" toward future violations.
As with any type of government-regulated program, PIRP comes with its own special rules and restrictions. Drivers who are interested in the insurance or point reduction can go to the New York DMV website to view the C-32A brochure, which provides complete details about the PIRP course. The C-32A brochure is also available from any local New York license office.
The web-based version of the PIRP course is called the Internet Point Insurance Reduction Program, or IPIRP. IPIRP courses are equivalent to the traditional classroom courses taught by an instructor, but there are some significant differences between the two. First, online courses are being touted for their convenience. No driving to a classroom is required for any reason (not even to take a final exam). This could be a huge factor for New Yorkers who want to take the course, but would prefer to avoid congested traffic, inclement weather, and high gas prices.
Second, the online courses include security measures that are not part of the classroom experience. The DMV has required that all IPIRP sponsors use some form of biometric security measures OR require proctored testing at a physical location before their courses will be approved. To date, all of the online sponsors have opted for biometrics, with the majority choosing some form of keystroke analysis. Online customers will have to provide an initial sample of their "online handwriting" and will be required to submit additional samples in order to continue using the course.
Another big difference between Internet PIRP and the classroom model is that the online version does not use a live instructor. If students have a question about the material, they can call or e-mail the company offering the course, but they cannot raise their hand, ask a question, and get an immediate response. This is obviously a disadvantage for students who wish to have a more "hands-on" experience or quick access to a seasoned professional.
On the other hand, the online defensive driving courses must meet strict content guidelines established by the DMV, so all students will receive the same instruction each time the course is delivered. DMV requires that certain topics be covered, such as New York traffic laws, how to deal with aggressive driving, and the consequences for drivers who choose to drink and drive.
IPIRP is a five-year pilot program that officially began with the release of the first approved courses last week. Over the coming years, DMV will study the programs closely to determine whether they are having a measurably positive effect on people's driving. Since the future is uncertain, New York drivers might want to take advantage of online defensive driving while they can.
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