The Difference Between Defensive Driving School and Traffic Survival School

Defensive Driving School

Defensive Driving School is a statutory creation and is covered in A.R.S. 28-3391 through 28-3399. Defensive driving school, also referred to as defensive driving diversion, is a diversion program. When you receive a civil moving violation, like a ticket for speeding or running a red light, you can opt to take a 4-hour defensive driving class in lieu of paying the ticket fine and receiving points on your license.  You cannot go to defensive driving school for non-moving violations like failing to provide proof of financial responsibility or driving on an expired registration.  Once you complete the defensive driving class, the class provider will notify the court, and the court will then dismiss your ticket.  The only cost to you is the cost of the class and the ticket will not show up on your driving record.

For civil moving violations, you can elect to go to defensive driving school as a matter of right – you do not need the permission of the court.  You can take the defensive driving class online or in person.  While defensive driving school is generally only available for civil moving violations, the court does have the authority to permit defensive driving school for criminal speed violations, but it is at the discretion of the court and the courts are not always inclined to allow defensive driving school as an option.  You can only go to defensive driving school once in a 12 month period and the clock starts on the date of the violation for which you attended defensive driving school.

Traffic Survival School

Whereas defensive driving school is a diversion program allowing you to avoid the consequences of a civil moving violation, Traffic Survival School (TSS) is more of a punishment handed out by the Arizona Motor Vehicles Division (MVD).  TSS is an 8-hour class that must be taken in-person; it is not available online.  When you receive a traffic ticket, you are dealing with two entities who want to punish you and take your money.  First, you deal with the court which determines if you are responsible/guilty.  If you are found to be responsible or guilty, the court takes your money in the form of a fine and then notifies the MVD about your violation.  The MVD is the entity that assesses the points on your license, suspends your license, and assigns traffic survival school.

The MVD will require you to take traffic survival school for a variety of reasons.  If you are found responsible for running a stop light or stop sign, the MVD will send you a Notice of Corrective Action directing you to go to TSS.  You will also be required to take TSS for moving violations resulting in death or serious injury, aggressive driving, a first moving violation if you are under 18 years of age, DUI and extreme DUI, and if you accumulate 8 to 12 points on your license in a 12 month period.  If you fail to attend traffic survival school, or if you are not eligible to attend traffic survival school because you already attended in the preceding 24 months, your license will be suspended.