Michigan’s New Basic Driver Improvement Course Helps Keep Points off Licenses

Michigan recently passed legislation approving a Basic Driver Improvement Course (BDIC), which allows drivers with certain traffic violations to take the course within 60 days of receiving a ticket, and potentially keep points from being applied to their licenses; ultimately avoiding any insurance premium increases points may cause. However, it is important to note that the ticket information will still be available to courts, and probationary drivers can still be subject to driver assessment re-examination. Furthermore, the driver is responsible for the ticket fees before pursuing the course.

The basics for eligibility for Michigan BDIC begin with a ticket a driver receives after December 31, 2010. First, the driver must have a valid, non-commercial license with two or fewer points. The violation must not have occurred in a commercial vehicle, be a criminal offense, and it must be included in the eligibility list of traffic offenses. For a full list of eligibility see http://www.michigan.gov/documents/sos/Civil_ infractions_ eligible _BDIC_336024_7.pdf.

A driver is disqualified from eligibility if, during the 60 day eligibility period, the driver is already in a similar 60 day period for a previous offense; the driver has already avoided points under this program; the driver's license is restricted, suspended, or revoked; or if the driver was not issued a Michigan driver's license. Furthermore, if the driver has three or more points on his or her record already, or if the driver held a commercial driver's license or was operating a commercial vehicle at the time of the ticket, he or she is disqualified from the program.

The easiest way for a driver to learn whether he or she is eligible is to check the mail for a letter sent by the State of Michigan after he or she has paid the ticket. Usually, if a driver receives a ticket eligible for the BDIC program, the state will send a letter to that individual providing information necessary for enrollment. If a driver never received the letter, and it is within the 60-day period, he or she should contact the Michigan Secretary of State for more information regarding the courses and the necessary information for enrollment. Note that the Michigan Department of State will not respond to phone or email requests due to the private nature of the information. If a driver did not receive the letter, and the date falls outside of the 60-day eligibility period, points will be assessed against his or her license and will be available to insurance providers. The Michigan Department of State only sends letters to the addresses provided on a driver's license; drivers are responsible for updating or changing that information to ensure proper delivery. If a driver loses the letter and it is within the 60-day period, he or she must contact the Michigan Secretary of State to gather the necessary information regarding BDIC courses. If the 60-day period has elapsed, then the ticket will appear on his or her license and the information will be made available to insurance providers.

If all goes well and a driver takes the appropriate steps to register for a BDIC course, he or she will need to check the approved provider list located at http://services.sos.state.mi.us/ courseprovider/vendorlist.aspx. The BDIC courses are only offered by providers approved through the State of Michigan, and fees may vary but do not exceed $100. Courses are available either online or in a classroom. Classroom courses vary from four to six hours and range from $59.95 to $79.00, whereas online courses are approximately four hours and range from $39.00 to $59.95. Each course provider supplies its information on its website, and course enrollment varies from provider to provider.

There is no limit to the number of attempts at the BDICs for drivers during the 60-day eligibility period, but the driver will be financially responsible for the course fees for each attempt. If the driver fails the BDIC, and he or she cannot successfully pass it in the 60-day eligibility period, then points will be added to his or her record and the information will become available to insurance providers. If the driver successfully completes the BDIC, the course provider will notify the Michigan Department of State electronically and the MDS will then not alter the driving record; the driver does not have to present anything to the Secretary of State. If a driver has questions or would like to review his or her driving record, copies are available for purchase at any local branch of the Michigan Secretary of State (unofficial copies are $7 and official copies are $8).

Lastly, a few notes for out of state drivers or potential participants in BDIC programs. As mentioned above, if a driver is out of state during the 60-day period, he or she is required to take a Michigan course online and may not substitute a course in a different state. Any state that offers a similar program sets its own standards and laws. If a Michigan driver receives a ticket out of state, the only way to determine eligibility is to receive a letter or contact the Michigan Department of State. In determining eligibility for out of state violations, MDS considers several factors such as the type of ticket, the driver's current licensure and status, and the points that the driver may already have on his or her record. Out of state drivers who have recently moved to Michigan may also be eligible if they receive a letter after their driving record is transferred to Michigan.