New program helps drivers keep their record clean
Boyle County Attorney Richard Campbell says the new online CATS traffic safety program makes it easier for traffic violators to keep their driving record clean while easing some of the burden on the always busy district court docket. (February 20, 2013)
“It was a lot easier than going to court,” said Sizemore, who lives in Stanford.
The County Attorney Traffic Safety program, or CATS, allows people cited for minor moving violations such as speeding or running a stop sign to have the offense erased from their driving records and criminal history with the completion of a video safety program called SMARTDRIVER that is available over the Internet or on DVD.
Similar programs have been available in some counties across the state in recent years as an option to state traffic school, but a bill passed by the General Assembly last year opened the door for online traffic courses to become widespread. Boyle, Mercer and Garrard counties started CATS programs last July, as soon as the law went into effect, with good results.
“I think everyone is pretty well pleased with it,” Boyle County Attorney Richard Campbell said. “It’s an opportunity to get a dismissal, like it never happened.
So far, 255 people cited in Boyle County have opted for the program, and only 20 have failed to complete it.
Sizemore said the online traffic course is a breeze for anyone with “basic Internet browsing skills.”¿It consists of six videos focused on defensive driving that Sizemore described as “well-made,” followed by a 20-question test.
He said he completed the course in about 30 minutes, working in the comfort of his own home, all without making a single court appearance.
“It was a lot more convenient that having to sit through three hours of that class,” Sizemore said, referring to a state traffic school session he completed about 10 years ago.
The cost of the program in Boyle County is $150, which is slightly cheaper than paying a fine (about $20), court costs ($141), and a traffic school fee ($15).
Of that $150 fee, $75 is returned to the county attorney’s office, $25 goes to the circuit clerk’s office and $50 is kept by the private company that operates CATS, Advent Financial Systems based in Elizabethtown.
“It saves you a little bit of money, but the key thing is getting that dismissal,” Campbell said.
Anyone who is eligible for state traffic school can choose CATS instead, Campbell said, explaining people can attend traffic school once every year for eligible moving violations as a way to keep points on their driver’s licenses and keep their insurance costs from rising.
If you receive another ticket in the same year after completing CATS, you can still attend traffic school to keep your record clean, he said.
Drivers cited for more egregious traffic violations such as driving under the influence and reckless driving are not eligible for CATS, Campbell said.
For those who are not computer savvy or don’t have access to a computer, the program is available on DVD. It is also available in Spanish, Campbell said.
Garrard County has made its CATS program even more accommodating to those who don’t have access to the Internet. It has computers and assistance available in the county attorney’s office for people to complete the online course, said Steve Simpson, the compliance officer for County Attorney Mark Metcalf.
“We try to make it as easy as possible,” Simpson said. “It seems to be going really well. It treats good citizens like good citizens.”