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Traffic School Will Lose Exclusive Rights : Court: Violators will now be allowed to attend classes at places other than Tri-County.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Speeders and others who violate traffic laws in Ventura County will now be able to attend any licensed traffic school they please, court officials announced Monday.

Currently, drivers who opt to attend traffic school are sent by Ventura County Municipal Court to Thousand Oaks-based Tri-County Traffic School.

But a recent discovery that Tri-County profits are not going to traffic-safety programs as promised has made judges have second thoughts.

In the early 1980s, Tri-County’s board of directors persuaded the court to give the facility all the county’s traffic-school business, court officials said, by touting the school’s educational programs and saying that the school would turn over most of its profits to traffic-safety programs.

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Even in 1986, when state law mandated each Municipal Court to open traffic classes to all licensed schools, Ventura County kept its agreement with Tri-County, in part because of the school’s promise to donate its profits, said Municipal Court Presiding Judge John R. Smiley.

But during an evaluation of Tri-County’s financial records in May, judges discovered that the school’s board of directors was apparently keeping most of the profits, court officials said.

“It came to our attention that Tri-County was not paying as much as they have over the years to traffic safety programs,” Smiley said.

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As a result, the judges have decided to allow other traffic schools in the county to compete for the court’s business, he said. The only stipulation is that the school must be licensed by the Department of Motor Vehicles, Smiley said.

None of Tri-County’s five board members could be reached for comment late Monday afternoon. A manager at one of Tri-County’s competitors said the judges’ decision might lower the price of traffic schools in the county.

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Tri-County charges $36 for the required eight-hour course. Some other traffic schools, such as A-1 The Saturday Class, charge less. Linda Gregory, an A-1 manager, said the price at her school is $28 for an eight-hour course.

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“It will be a great thing,” Gregory said. “It will allow the students to go to any school they choose. Financially, it will allow them to save money because we are a little bit cheaper.”

Right now, she said, A-1 can barely find enough students to fill one class in Ventura County, but she hopes that will change with the decision announced Monday.


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