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Traffic tickets cleared at home by taking online driving class

Oakland Tribune Online | November 02, 2001

The best way to beat a speeding ticket is:
A. Fighting it in court.
B. Cringing through gory scare-videos such as Red Asphalt Two at traffic school.
C.Listening at "comedy" traffic school to a humorless comic drone on for hours.
D.Staying at home.

In Alameda County the answer is D.: staying at home. At least that's now an option thanks to a driving school online class approved this week by the county's traffic courts.

Starting yesterday , speeders and rolling stoppers can relearn the rules of the road and avoid a point on their driving records, from the ease and comfort of their home -- if it's computer equipped, that is. Logging onto http://www.trafficschoolonline.com/, traffic violators can click their mouse through the eight-hour, 50,000-word curriculum at their own pace.

Founder of the school, Steve Soldis, of Santa Rosa, got the idea after getting a speeding ticket on the famous Interstate 5 Grapevine and learning that no online classes existed. So he began pushing the idea to traffic courts.

In 1998, San Mateo County became the first in the state to adopt the idea. Since then, more than 100,000 people have learned online rather than from a boring comedian or a fire-and-brimstone driving instructor. The school is one of about a dozen online schools.

Currently, courts in five states have approved the system, along with all of the Bay Area counties, except Marin, Contra Costa and Santa Clara. Californians can also take the test in Spanish.

Soldis claims his method creates "better drivers, not bitter drivers," who he believes get nothing out of being locked up in a Saturday class that feels more like detention than learning.

Just as with conventional traffic school, violators can go to the court counter, pay a fine and sign up. But don't be fooled. This $25 course is no breeze. Students have to read through 10 chapters, with snappy titles such as "Attitudes That Kill" and "Alcohol is Not the Only Intoxicant."

Students have to get all of a short set of questions right at the end of each chapter. Miss one, and you go back.

It can't be cheated. People who click back from the chapter quiz to refresh their memories are forced to take a new quiz. Nothing stops someone letting someone else take the test for them, however.

At the end of it all, people have to pass a 40-question test administered online by a court service. Students need to get 80 percent of the answers right. It takes 76 percent to pass the written test to get a drivers license but 88 percent to renew one, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

The online driver school curriculum is approved by the California Highway Patrol and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, certified by the Coordinated Court Services and California Traffic Safety Institute and written by a clinical psychologist.

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