Attending a traffic education program in lieu of a traffic conviction is an option many might choose -- if they can afford to.
The new program is mandated by the state for each judicial circuit as an alternative to expensive fines and a likely rise in insurance costs. Those who complete the program will have their tickets dismissed with no infraction reported to insurance companies.
The four-hour class, which will be taught at Rock Hill's York Technical College, is restricted to those who do not have outstanding points on their driving record. Tickets must be for minor offenses, such as speeding, running red lights or following too close, not offenses such as driving under the influence.
Participants also must complete four hours of community service with an approved nonprofit agency. The program must be completed within 120 days of receiving a traffic citation, or the offense is referred back to court. And drivers can take the course only once.
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The cost of the class is $280, which is payable in two $140 money orders. Over the long run, that is likely to be a bargain for those who take the course.
When drivers receive points for a traffic citation, in addition to fines, it is standard for insurance companies to raise the cost of insurance policies for the period the extra points remain on a driver's record. Fines and added insurance costs are almost certain to exceed the $280 cost of the traffic education class.
Nonetheless, $280, even when paid in two installments, can make the class financially inaccessible to many residents. Despite the fact that they could end up paying more over the life of the infraction, the cost of the class puts that option out of reach.
This program unquestionably is a valuable one that offers drivers with no points the chance to keep their records clean. As 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett notes, the program helps people avoid the dramatic financial consequences of getting a ticket while still learning from their mistakes.
But to make that option available to all, the state needs to lower the price or allow people to pay the $280 cost in smaller increments over a longer period of time. The idea of the program is great, but it should be affordable, not just an alternative for those who can easily pay for two $140 money orders.
We hope those who administer this program will consider alternatives that might work for lower-income drivers.
IN SUMMARYTraffic education class is a great option for many, but some might not be able to afford it.