No more points

Getting pulled over can result in a costly ticket, and consequently, higher insurance rates due to the addition of points to the driver’s license.

To avoid these points and extra costs, students can elect to attend a defensive-driving school. However, with modern technology, they can now attend the class in the comfort of their own homes, save time and fit the course into their schedule over the Internet.

Developed by Mark Hamilton, is a Web site that offers defensive-driving classes online. After receiving several tickets, Hamilton decided there had to be an easier way to avoid getting points on his license.

“After deciding to attend a defensive driving course, I soon realized that I hated the experience,” Hamilton said. “It was then that I thought that offering online defensive driving was the best option.”

A 1997 graduate of USF, Hamilton started in October of 2002. He is the sole owner and operator of the company, leaving him in charge of every aspect of the business, from advertising to Web site maintenance.

“Probably one of the most important responsibilities I have is taking care of the customer,” Hamilton said. “I work hard to make sure that the customer has all of the information that they need in order to complete the course successfully.”

There are other Web sites that offer the same service with essentially the same content. The state of Florida licenses the sites before they can administer the course, so the material is relatively universal. However, has a few extra features that makes it unusual, Hamilton said. There are links to articles that focus on safe driving practices, and the course is also available in Spanish. The Web site is also set up in a manner that is easy to navigate with only four lessons, compared to other Web sites that have up to seven different sections, Hamilton said.

While enrollment in the class is $35, completion of the course reduces the civil penalty, which is part of the ticket, by 40 percent.

“Most people just pay the fine not realizing that they’ll pay more insurance for many years after getting the violation,” Hamilton said. “That’s where the real benefit of taking defensive driving is — not raising their insurance rates.”

Hamilton also said that college students who have tickets may find taking the defensive-driving class online especially convenient because it allows them to start and stop the program as many times as necessary within the 90 days after registration.

“College students have busy schedules that might not allow them the opportunity to drive to the other side of Tampa to take the course,” Hamilton said. “They can take the online course and do a little at a time and come back to finish later. Users can fit this course into their own schedule.”

Hamilton said that for those who delay or forget about taking the course, the Web site offers a next-day delivery option for the certificate of completion.

“People tend to procrastinate, and, as such, they will put off taking the course until the very last minute,” Hamilton said. “If they fail to receive their certificate in time, they will fail.”

Hamilton said the site averages 200 hits and about 65 students taking the course per week. He also operates, which is for first-time drivers who need to complete the Alcohol, Drugs and Accident Prevention Training Program in order to become eligible for a license.

He said he hopes the numbers will rise as more people learn about the course and its convenience. He is also planning to develop specialized versions of for other states.

“In the near future, I’ll be approved to offer the course in New York and Virginia, so the counts should definitely increase once that happens,” Hamilton said.

“My goal is to become the premier online defensive-driving course in those states.”

Contact Rebecca Markleyat