Ever since the South Orange County Municipal Court eliminated traffic school in 1983, getting a ticket in the southern part of the county has been an expensive proposition. Although motorists who got tickets in other county court jurisdictions could expiate their driving sins with a day at traffic school, a south county traffic offender had no options other than to fight the ticket or pay a hefty fine and perhaps higher insurance premiums as well.
As of Monday, however, they have another alternative, because traffic school is back in session for south county drivers.
"This is something the driving public really wants," said Richard D. Hamilton, assistant presiding judge of the South Orange County Municipal Court. "They've really been upset when told that they can't go to traffic school."
The court did away with its traffic school program because of doubts over whether it was having any effect at all on people's driving, Hamilton said.
"We still don't know if it's any good, but we do know that people want it to get that ticket off their records and to keep their insurance (costs) down," he said.
A court calendar crowded with drivers fighting their tickets, the expense of having officers testify and a state law that went into effect last year that sets guidelines for traffic school diversion programs spurred the court to overturn its decision and offer drivers the education alternative, Hamilton said.
Eligible defendants--those who have not been convicted of a minor moving violation in a year's time and have met other criteria--may attend any traffic school licensed by the state Department of Motor Vehicles. There will not be such a facility set up at the South County Courthouse in Laguna Niguel because of space limitations, Hamilton said.