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Ticket extortion?

September 9, 2013 - Brian Rowell
One of our readers recently brought a letter to the Daily Press that raised my eyebrows. This person, one of our readers, had been stopped and ticketed for speeding (five miles over the speed limit). After the incident, he received the letter below in the mail. — — — It stated: “The Michigan Department of State has been provided with information regarding the violation (ticket) information listed above. Based on your driving record, you are eligible to participate in Michigan’s Basic Driver Improvement Course (BDIC) program. “The Basic Driver Improvement Course in optional and works like this: Drivers who receive minor violations may take the course for a fee not to exceed $100. If they successfully complete the course, any points stemming from that violation are not placed on their record. In addition, the violation and points (if any) will not be disclosed to their insurance company. “The course, for your convenience, may be taken online or in a classroom setting. If you choose to participate, you must successfully complete the course on or before midnight of the deadline below: “If you do not successfully complete, or elect not to take the course, the violation will be added to your driving record and made available to insurance companies. NOTE: You must have a copy of this letter available when registering for the Basic Driver Improvement Course. “You should also know: -If you choose to take the Basic Driver Improvement Course, you must select one of the approved sponsors identified at: -You may avoid having a violation disclosed to insurance companies under this program only once. -There are no appeal rights for failing the course or missing the deadline above. -Course providers establish their own course fees, but may not charge more than $100. -Instruction may be available in a classroom, online or both. -You are still responsible for any court costs and fines. -The violation may still be viewed by courts, law enforcement and other government agencies and used as required by law, regardless of your participation. “For additional information including fees, course scheduling, Frequently Asked Questions, and whether online or classroom courses are offered, go to “For your convenience you may purchase a copy of your driving record at any Secretary of State office of visit for more options. If you have additional questions, please call the Department of State Information Center toll free at (888) 767-6424.” — — — I don’t have any problem with penalties being imposed if you violate the traffic laws of the state of Michigan. If you are caught speeding, you should pay a fine — period — end of story. I do take exception, though (as did the Daily Press reader who received the above letter) with what basically looks like a veiled attempt at extortion by the Michigan Department of State. In simple terms, this is what the state of Michigan is saying: Pay up to $100 for this course, and we won’t tell your insurance company about your ticket. If you don’t pay, we will tell your insurance company. What does that sound like to you? I think if you or I tried a scheme like this we might be looking at time behind bars. I’m sure the Basic Driver Improvement Course is worthwhile and most ticketed drivers would probably benefit by taking it. If the state feels it is that important, though, then perhaps it should be a part of the standard penalty for a moving violation. The state shouldn’t threaten drivers with insurance company disclosure if they don’t cough up money for a course


Article Comments

Oct-16-13 12:00 PM

I agree the letter sent by the State is poorly written and gives the feeling of being extorted, but the primary purpose of the program is to identify drivers who could most benefit from a refresher course that may reduce the possibility of another ticket or being involved in a collision. The course provides a very good refresher of the hazards in driving and how to recognize, understand, and act in time to avoid those hazards. The receiving of a ‘minor’ violation ticket that is eligible for this program is a red flag that the driver made a bad choice when driving that increase his or her chances of being injured or killed in a collision (not to mention others on the same roadway) or receiving another ticket. We have had customers from 16 to 93 years old in our classes. In over two years and nearly 1,000 students and nearly everyone that attends feels it should be a mandatory class for all drivers.


Oct-02-13 12:09 PM

The underlying problem in this issue is the excessive rates charged in MI by insurance companies due to "No Fault". If the legislature wants to do something to actually help motorists instead of this token effort No Fault should be repealed and get MI in line with other states.


Sep-19-13 7:13 PM

"Extortion" is a big word Brian, your comments are best served directly to the program involved.. and HOPE you never need to try and remove points from your driving record, or keep it from your insurance company (even one time).. for ANY PRICE.. cause Buddy, they're gonna remember you and your remarks.. Meanwhile, I thank the State of Michigan for having a program where someone who makes a mistake can hope to eradicate that mistake from records that would seek to CHARGE them HIGHER insurance fees simply because.. because they can, and will in this day and age.. ANYONE who has learned their lesson and was able to use this program THANKS those who have it.. you, on the other hand can.. just eat your next traffic ticket..


Sep-19-13 7:13 AM

I have lived in several states and this is something that is done in many of them. It cannot be done for everything, and it cannot be done all of the time, but for a person who has a first time minor violation, it does give them a great opportunity to not have the ticket follow their record and insurance statements. I think it is great that Michigan has started implementing something that many other States already do. The individual was speeding, and in reality, still has the option to pay the fine and have it reported to the insurance company just as it always has been. What they choose to do is their choice.


Sep-13-13 10:40 AM

"if you don't do this, or if you do this"

you will be reported, and retribution will certainly follow.

Zowie Howie,

Zounds like the nazi's in hitler's Ober-Deutchland, got into our legislatures!


Sep-09-13 4:24 PM

Hello Mr. Rowell,

Please be aware that the Michigan Legislature created the Basic Driver Improvement Court and not the Michigan Department of State. The legislation was signed into law by Gov. Granholm and is modeled on similar programs in other states. The department is required by law to offer this program.

Lawmakers at the time said the course would allow people to avoid costly insurance increases due to a minor violation. The program allows points drivers normally receive for a minor driving violation to not be counted against them if they pass a traffic safety course. The course can be used to avoid points only once and serious driving violations such as drunken driving don't qualify for the program.

More information about the program can be found at ****

Thank you, Fred Woodhams Communications Manager Michigan Department of State


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