Driving School

[ some of this information was moved from bicyclist-diversion-programs-around-arizona ]

There are two distinct types of “Driving School” in Arizona; the first one Defensive Driving is generally attended after receiving a traffic ticket but before any trial in order to have the violation automatically dismissed; and the second Traffic Safety School is generally where drivers who have been found guilty/responsible for more serious infractions are ordered to attend.

Traffic Survival School

cover of workbook used at all TSS classes (circa 2014): Attitudinal Dynamics of Driving and Young Adult Course Guide

None of the above is to be confused with Traffic Survival School (TSS); which is ordered or required when found responsible/guilty of certain infractions or any condition when a driver accumulates 8 points or more within 12 months on their driver’s license. Notably red light violations (see SB1118 46th/1st 2003 Chapter 236), Flashing red violation, causing any death/serious injury w/moving violation, agressive driving, and DUI (because of points; dui is 8 points). There are some extra provisions for drivers under 18 years old.

Failure to comply results in license suspension. Also of note, TSS is overseen by MVD.  For administrivia see ARS  32-2351 where TSSs are defined to be “Professional driver training school” (confusingly, there is a new version of that law 32-2351.01 becoming effective 7/1/2014 which drops the references to TSS altogether? wha??), see AAC (Arizona Administrative Code) R17-5-30x. Also found R17-5-318 Traffic Survival Schools but only in a rulemaking notice?

Example of TSS, Needs, Wants, Feelings are represented by parts of a (metaphorical) car. Overall behavioral modification is emphasized. Technical minutia, like rules and statutes  are minimized.

See here for some graphics from Attitudinal Dynamics of Driving and Young Adult Course Guide — this is the workbook used  in all Arizona TSS (Traffic Survival School). The book is published by the National Safety Council and is generic to the entire US. The Arizona Chapter of NSC (ACNSC) has an exclusive contract with ADOT/MVD to administer all TSS classes in AZ — the ACNSC futher sub-contracts to a network of trainers that actually deliver the classes. E.g. centralized scheduling goes thru azstatetss.org. The ACNSC does not actually teach any of the classes (i’m not sure why). The ACNSC is responsible due to the contract with MVD to do administration of the overall program; e.g. keeping track of who is supposed to attend, and who has successfully completed.

Hunting around NSC training documentation online; it appears the booklet pictured above, and the 8-hour outline match up closely with their marketing brochure (SAP, SAMRIC) for Defensive Driving Course – Attitudinal Dynamics of Driving, Third Edition (backup copy). And appears current, e.g. This page that says “Newly revised in 2008, the 3rd edition has been completely overhauled to encompass new skill sets and mind sets to recognize the direct connection between drivers’ attitudes and their driving behaviors.” has listings for numerous instructor certification classes in 2014.

I grilled a recent TSS attendee (and she showed me the workbook, pictured above) about what might have been covered with regard to driving around pedestrians — she said “a little”. I asked her what an unmarked crosswalk was. She had no idea and said/claims that never came up. Upon asking about what was discussed with regard to driving around bicyclists she said there was nothing at all on on that topic.

So I eventually (it took a couple of public records requests, see comment below) to find out from MVD the outline and structure of what gets taught. It appears the only bicycle-specific topic appears as “optional” (and one of 18 optional topics!).

I had previously (i mean prior to receiving the outline from ADOT/MVD)  spoke with Debbie at ACNSC on 5/23/2014 and she was very helpful; she had reviewed the material and confirmed there is nothing specific to bicycle operation; including in the ~ 2 hours state mandated material required by MVD. On the other hand, she was quite interested in putting some material in, and asked me to supply here with some general points. This is a huge opportunity; as there are ~ 3,000 drivers attending TSS PER MONTH in Arizona; even a few minutes of training would have a broad reach. Two resouces i plan to suggest are CyclingSavvy’s “Why do you ride like that?” and Kirby Beck’s Law and Order / Law Enforcement Magazine article (in particular the 6 “Road use perceptions”)

Defensive Driving Program

Note that the Defensive Driving Program (DDP; or sometimes called DDS for Defensive Driving School, and often referred to simply as “traffic school”) is overseen by the Arizona Supreme Court; and is enabled by specific legislation, see Title 28, Article 7, 28-3391 through 3399. Although clearly aimed and intended for motorist-violators, there’s nothing inherent in the legislation that restricts it to motorists; though because of the incentives involved, it is not attractive to bicyclists who have been cited [because of license “points” though this is an ongoing debate I’ve never gotten a full answer to].  This program is an industry unto itself and there’s a whole bunch of red-tape and administrivia involved.


In an unrelated note; this document from the Arizona Memory Project was pointed out to me:  Arizona safety sad-istics which was a public-awareness campaign put on by ADOT in the 1960s.

Anyway, another search turned up this document, related to the matter at hand Evaluation of Traffic Violators Schools (TVS) Vs. Traffic Survival Schools (TSS) Report number: FHWA-AZ93-364 and contains this humorous tidbit in the intro “The suitability of a ‘defensive’ [i.e. the Defensive Driving Program/Course] for traffic offenders is certainly questionable.  Clearly, the course was not designed for what is obviously an ‘offensive’ group of drivers”.



4 thoughts on “Driving School”

  1. My SECOND public records request did result in ADOT/MVD sending me the document TSS-PROGRAMOUTLINE.docx on 11/7/2014.
    It’s just an outline but does confirm in the 100 minute “state mandated” section; there is no bicycle-specific topics. In the “optional” topics (at the discretion of the individual instructor; and only after ALL mandatory topics are wholly covered), one of 18 suggestions is “sharing the road with bicycles (735, 812, 815)”.

    Below is a records request along with the response to my FIRST public-records request (transcribed from a .pdf; somewhat annoyingly they always respond on a pdf which i imagine has something to do with the way they archive document)…

    —– Forwarded Message —–
    From: Ed Beighe
    To: Risk Management MRISKMANAGEMENT@azdot.gov
    Sent: Thursday, May 15, 2014 11:51 AM
    Subject: documention regarding TSS

    From what I understand MVD is charged with the responsibility of overseeing Traffic Survival School (TSS); and contracts with private contractors to deliver the classes.
    I would like to view the curriculum — how can i do so?
    (please don’t suggest i attend a TSS! From what i understand that is not even possible; that is to say, only those who are required to attend may attend).
    Ed Beighe


    5/20/2014 Dear Ed Beighe,
    In response to your records request, the Arizona Department of Transportation (“ADOT”) provides the following responsive information:
    No responsive records. ADOT-MVD has one single contractor to provide Traffic Survival School (“TSS”) services. That contractor is the Arizona Chapter of the National Safety Council (“ACNSC”). ACNSC separately licenses a network of providers who conduct TSS classes (ADOT does not). ACNSC owns the TSS curriculum, which is protected by U.S. Copyright. ADOT does not provide a written curriculum to ACNSC.
    The above is responsive to the best of my knowledge and concludes my response.

    Sarah Greener
    Custodian of Record


    I am in touch with Debbie Grado from ACNSC (602-264-2394) as of 5/15/2014 called me back and she sounded helpful; she is going to look through some workbooks or something and tell me what (if any) is taught about bicycles.
    Below is the “ask adot” chain passcode 8189553141

    Previous Correspondence:
    ADOT Response: Good afternoon. Each TSS facility will have a different curriculum. As we stated previously, please contact the Arizona Chapter National Safety Council for further assistance. Thank you for using our email service.
    5/15/2014 4:28:18 PM
    Your Input: “Since TSS is not conducted by MVD”. Yes, i am aware TSS is not conducted by MVD. However, MVD is charged with oversight of the program. I am sure the private contractors who conduct the classes don’t just teach whatever they please. Where can i view the curriculum or guidelines for curriculum that have been developed by MVD?
    5/14/2014 2:01:14 PM
    ADOT Response: Good afternoon. Thank you for your inquiry. Since TSS is not conducted by MVD, you may want to contact the Arizona Chapter National Safety Council at (602)222-3381 for further assistance. Thank you for using our email service.
    5/14/2014 1:42:08 PM
    Your Input: Where can I view the the curriculum / materials for what is taught at Traffic Survival School?
    5/13/2014 3:03:15 PM

  2. Hi, I read the TSS entry and you ask a question about “why” the National Safety Council does not teach traffic survival school? As you know they are contracted to administer the program so if they taught the traffic survival school classes it could possibly be a conflict of interest. All TSS instructors are required to go through a 3 day TSS instructor course that the National Safety Council teaches. In my opinion the NSC has added value to the AZ MVD TSS program in the way of having implemented standards unfortunately however the TSS owners who rebel against those standards seemingly get away with it. I’m a certified TSS instructor and I’ve taught it long enough to have seen the good, the bad and the ugly of it. I recently started Arizona Alliance Traffic Survival Schools LLC in an attempt to further add value to the program. Traffic survival school is not an extension of punishment and should not be viewed as such. The traffic survival school instructors main objective is to make referent to “choice theory” and help people overcome ineffective behavior choices while driving. Unfortunately what I’ve discovered is that a few of the bigger traffic survival schools are more interested in a business profit over trying to provide quality instruction. My frustrations over some of the unethical business practices fueled my desire and passion to make a change for the betterment of the program. If .. wait want to highlight that .. “IF” the State mandates traffic survival school versus a suspension they should ensure that the traffic survival schools are abiding by the standards set according to National Safety Council and AZ MVD. In some schools .. there’s no credible accountability. Some TSS owners encourage English language challenged Latino people into going to a “English only” speaking class. The dynamics of teaching choice theory and helping them to also understand traffic laws, safe driving etc are lost. One of the highest percentages of violations are “Red Light” running! Why this happens? A lot of people are trying to speed up to beat the Yellow light and that causes them to run a red light. So many people are seriously injured and killed because of this. Feel free to contact me about any further interest in traffic survival school and my attempts to help Arizona become one of the safest states to drive and live in. Hope you’ll visit my website https://www.azatss.com/about-arizona-alliance.html

  3. The AZ MVD TSS Traffic school’s main focus is to help you understand why you’re making the choices you make, and help you overcome unsafe, ineffective,and risky choices while driving. If the traffic survival school instructor
    can hold your interest and attention span you’ll gain useful insight on how to change negative attitudes
    while driving, and that is what this course is really about. http://www.azatss.com

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