Highlights From a Six-Hour Defensive Driving Course I Took

Screenshot: Planes, Trains & Automobiles

In December, I took a six-hour online defensive driving course on a Friday night because I am extremely cool. This was not because I’d committed some infraction on the road, major or minor, it was to get a discount on my car insurance and would save me about $80 a year. I told you I was cool.

I don’t know if all online defensive driving courses are as tedious as the one I took, but, sheesh, was mine a slog. It was not totally dissimilar to other tests I’ve taken in my life—you sit down at a computer, click through a bunch of slides, take a multiple choice quiz to ensure you’ve fully absorbed the information in those slides, and then move on. The difference being, this course was timed in a such a way that you couldn’t move at your own pace. You had to sit and wait 30 seconds every time, even if the information on the slide in front of you was one sentence long.


All of which might not have been so irritating, if the information weren’t so inane, and both too much, and not enough.

Here’s what it had to say about using drugs while driving, for example, along with a useful graphic:


This is all to make the point, that, of course using heroin while driving is bad! Though I’m not sure that was in dispute.

The section about drinking and driving was similarly needlessly pedantic. Take this passage:


I’m here to tell you that it’s a terrible idea to drink before driving, whether or not the beverage is carbonated or not, but you already knew that.

The turns of history weren’t much better. Take this on ignition interlock devices:


I suppose it’s accurate to say that some segment of the public hates seat belt laws on principle, but I don’t know what any of this information is doing in a course ostensibly about safe driving.


Anyway! The worst of these—actually this may not be the worst of them, it was a long course and I only got a few screenshots—is this take on driving a manual.


I honestly think driving manual makes you more attentive, not less, as this seems to argue, but, sure, whatever, just trying to get through a class here.

The course I took was through the American Safety Council, by the way. That’s an entity that sounds like some kind of boring non-profit but is in fact a for-profit e-learning firm. I don’t really blame them for existing, the courses are made in accordance with state law. And I’m guessing that the law is based on something, some kind of study somewhere that said that drivers that take these courses get in fewer accidents.


And that may very well be, but for me it was about money. I’ve saved about $55 so far subtracting for the cost of the course, an hourly rate that I think I last made in the Obama administration. But I’m playing the long-game.

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About the author

Erik Shilling

News Editor at Jalopnik. 2008 Honda Fit Sport.