TRAFFIC SCHOOL : This Might Be the Ticket, No Joking

Choosing which traffic school to attend in Ventura County could drive you crazy.

Scenario: You're a Ventura County resident minding your own business, doing nothing more than 75 m.p.h. in a 55 m.p.h. zone, and they give you a traffic citation within the county. Fortunately, this is your first offense in a long time and you are eligible to attend traffic school to keep those insurance premiums down.

Aren't you lucky! There are about 55 classrooms being operated by 17 DMV-approved traffic violator schools in Ventura County. Fees vary from $18.99 to $30, with day, evening and weekend sessions available. And what a variety of classes to choose from. There are the three community colleges, May Co., Comediane Plus-Learn From Us, California Traffic Schools, Lunch N Learn at Fine Restaurants, Cheap School, and Tri-County Traffic School, among others.

The truth is, if you live in and were ticketed in Ventura County, there won't be any jugglers, hay rides, comedians or gourmet lunches in your future. With rare exceptions, all eligible violators opting for classes must attend Tri-County Traffic School.

On the other hand, Ventura County residents ticketed outside the county may attend any state-licensed traffic school in California. Non-residents of the county have the same option, regardless of where in California the citation was received.

Avoid problems. Read the explanation on your ticket or that courtesy notice that is generally mailed by the court. If you attend the wrong school, the court will not accept the certificate.

And remember, a driver's insurance rates are usually increased if the fine is paid without traffic school, but that doesn't mean that completion of traffic school wipes the offending ticket off your record. It goes as an 'explained citation,' on their record," said Melody Jorgenson, office manager of Tri-County Traffic School.

Tri-County is the only nonprofit, as well as the first and oldest traffic school in Ventura County. Originally named the "Conejo Valley Traffic Survival School," it was established in 1974 in Thousand Oaks by the Jaycees as a community service. The school is operated by paid coordinator Lt. Arnie Schwartz of Los Angeles CHP, and five volunteer board members. According to Sheila Gonzalez, supervisor of courts administrations at Ventura County Municipal Court, after meeting expenses, Tri-Valley puts money back into the community for driver's education and traffic safety programs.

Tri-County has six locations in Ventura, Simi Valley, Westlake Village, and the main office in Thousand Oaks, which serve approximately 32,000 students annually.

Although in recent years the names and delivery style of schools have evolved, all operators and instructors must pass tests and be licensed by the DMV. Most instructors are associated with law enforcement or teaching, but a few are professional comedians.

Lewis Reck, an instructor in Santa Monica who served 28 years with the Los Angeles Police Department, says that almost any person could be "coached" to pass the comprehensive instructor's test, but an instructor needs experience in law enforcement to know traffic and the vehicle code. Reck says that humor in teaching is important but so is a knowledge of the law.

According to Bill Gengler, spokesman for the DMV in Sacramento, a policy shift initiated by judges and public alike will soon require that approved traffic schools be listed by their state license numbers instead of their names. This practice is meant to eliminate advertising while it emphasizes the serious purpose of traffic school.

For information on traffic court eligibility, call Ventura County Municipal Court-Traffic Division, Ventura office: 654-2611, between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.; Simi Valley branch: 584-4802 Ext. 4800.


Here are some traffic schools to choose from, but remember, you may not be eligible for all of them. Check the information on your ticket or the courtesy notice sent by the court:

* Tri-County Traffic School (496-0244), Saturday-Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Monday-Tuesday or Wednesday-Thursday, 6 to 10 p.m.; weekdays 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Availability varies with each city. Call for details, $22.

* California Traffic School (653-6415), supplements the basic program of films, lecture and discussion with a DMV-approved study guide. Only Saturday classes, 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Ventura, $25.

* Oxnard College, Community Services (986-5822), alternate Saturdays, on campus, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.. $22.

* Lunch N Learn at Fine Restaurants (800-368-2929), monthly on Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. $29, includes full-course hot meal.

* Cheap School (522-3300) Saturdays and Sundays, 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., in Camarillo or Simi Valley, $18.99

* The May Co. Traffic School (485-2189), meets in May Co. stores in Oxnard or Thousand Oaks, Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., or Sundays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. $30.

* Lettuce Us Amuse U Comedy School (257-7661), claims to have originated the use of professional comedians as instructors in 1985. Meets monthly on Saturdays, 8:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. in Simi Valley. $29.

Students must have the court's permission to attend before registering at any establishment. All classes require advance reservations and payment in cash.

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