When last I wrote, I was trying to choose an online traffic school after getting a speeding ticket. I must admit my feedback, both public and private, was weak. Bocona wanted me to stop the nonsense and simply take the classroom program. I didn't see that as a worthwhile use of my time, however, and so I made my choice.
First, a trip to the Florida DMV website for a list of authorized schools, since the potential for scamming me was pretty high. It turns out that there is more than one list at the DMV, and they don't match. They don't offer URLs, either. I did find "Improv Comedy Traffic Schools of Florida" on one list, and called the provided phone number to get their URL. A good call on my part; their URL did not match the Improv school from my postcard collection.
A Little Background Data
The Improv I was referred to by the state is at www.4trafficschoolbyimprov.com. This URL belongs to the American Institute for Public Safety, but I didn't stay at that URL for long. Before I knew it, I was handed off to the aipsawaredriveronline.com domain, owned by the same company.
I was beginning to suspect all of these solicitations ultimately end at the same place, a suspicion that only grew as I took the course. Without taking another class, which I don't intend to do without serious compensation, I can't prove my suspicion that all of these companies are selling the same class... but it seemed pretty likely.
More Than Just Comedy
The principal selling point for the school I chose was comedy, but it did have other redeeming values. For my $23.95 fee, I would have my choice of having my certificate mailed to me, e-mail to me, or both. No extra charge. I pay more for rush service, such as FedEx, but that's to be expected. Of course, e-mailing my certificate required me to give them my e-mail address, which I declined to do, so I selected the snail mail route.
I was also instructed to provide the answers to about a dozen security questions. It wasn't important that the answers were correct - just reproducible. I would be asked these questions at random times, to insure I was still in front of the computer. I would have two minutes to answer a security question correctly before getting kicked out of school. And no, I couldn't print the list - I'd have to hand write the list if I were thinking of cheating.
As For the Course
The course was arranged in a series of chapters, each with its own two-question quiz, and each timed so that I would spend a minimum of four hours in front of the computer. Speed reading wouldn't help; I could not move on until the time was up. I could retake each chapter if I chose, but could not take the final exam until I took each chapter.
But that wasn't so bad, right? At least I would have four hours of comedy... and then I remembered that comedy is loosely defined as the opposite of tragedy. My columns have more humor than those chapters did! I only had one LOL (laugh-out-loud, for the uninformed) moment. I only rarely got beyond a smile. It was the content that built the suspicion that every school used the same class.
Finally, the Test
The test was not difficult. Multiple-choice. I think 80% was passing, but I admit I've forgotten that detail. I missed two questions. Had I failed, I could have taken it again. I could review the chapters between tests, but the test itself was "closed book".
When I finished, I was told I could look forward to receiving my certificate in 5 to 10 business days.
10 business days later I was still missing my certificate. I began to wish I had traded by e-mail address for my certificate.
I found the postcard for Improv and called the number on the card. They had no record of me (not all Improvs are the same). I had bookmarked the website, so I returned there and found the contact number.
They found me, and they said they mailed the certificate, but couldn't tell me the date.
"Mail it again," I told them. When I asked, they told me it would mail from Miami. Okay, I'd give them four days, and if I didn't get it then, they could look forward to another call.
Four days later, the certificate arrived (and the original mailing is still missing). It was mailed by "Aware Driver" in North Miami.
Big sigh of relief!
Would I Do It Again?
Were I unlucky enough to get another ticket, the online school was better than the classroom, but curiosity might make me pick another school, to see if there really is a difference. But yes, online was the right choice for me, and this school was a fairly safe choice. Maybe next time I'd use a disposable e-mail address.
Better still, I'll simply try to avoid getting another ticket.