Illinois Charges You Twice As Much For "Online" Driving School Because Of "Scammers"

Reader Orwell writes us with a complaint about the “driving school” program. In Illinois, if you get a ticket you can choose to pay extra to attend “driving school.” This will prevent the state from ratting you out to your insurance company. A nice little racket, but not uncommon. The cute part is that in Illinois they charge an extra $25 for the online version of the course. Why? When Orwell asked, the CSR told him it was because of “Scammers.” She also told him to “Watch his mouth.”

Orwell writes:

Hey Consumerist folks,

I’m an Illinois (the sucker state) resident and I just had a lot of fun with the Traffic Safety School program.

A couple months back I got a ticket. I totally deserved it and opted for Traffic Safety School to keep it off my insurance.

You send in the ticket cost plus an additional 25 dollar fee to sign up for the class. If you want to take the course online it’s an additional 10 dollar fee. Already this feels like a racket, but like I said I did the crime so I’ll do the time.

Problem was, I never got my registration letter. After a month I was starting to get nervous, since if you don’t complete the course it goes on your driving record. I called the Traffic Safety School (URL below)

(http://www.northwestern.edu/nucps/tssonline/index.htm_

and was placed on hold for 30 minutes. Then disconnected. I called back and was on hold for 20 minutes, then an automated message told me they were closed (this was during their business hours). So that’s 50 minutes in the middle of the day, my lunch hour at work essentially.

I called back the next day they were open and was on hold for 25 minutes before getting an operator who told me I’d have to speak to a customer service person and…yes…put me on hold. This time for only 10 more minutes.

Finally, I got to an actual person who was supposed to help. She explained to me that they mailed out the letter with the registration info and never received it back. I told her I’ve never had a problem with my mail so this was kind of surprising. She said I was “placed in a class” and that if I wanted the online course it would be another 25 dollars.

That’s -The cost of the ticket -25 dollars for traffic school -Another 25 dollars for the online version (which you’d assume costs LESS to run)

I asked why this fee was in place, she explained that “scammers” were the problem. I said I was not scamming and that I was curious why I had to pay a fine in addition to the fine. She said “Maybe you should drive more safely and avoid all this hassle.”

About ten seconds later she had put me in the online class. Not a lot of paperwork/legwork. She then told me to “Watch my mouth” and hung up.

Illinois is the sucker state.

-Orwell

Yes, Orwell it is. Believe us, we know.

(For those of you just joining us, Illinois’ original state nickname was “The Sucker State.” Of course that was too accurate and funny so it was replaced with “The Prairie State.” The “Sucker State” nickname has stuck around, however, because of Illinois notorious reputation for corruption and general clusterf*ckness. End history lesson.)

Does your state pull this kind of crap? Is your state a “Sucker State?” Email: tips [at] consumerist [dot] com.

Comments

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  1. tvh2k says:

    I wonder what he said to deserve the “watch your mouth” comment :-O

    Still, extra for the online course, what gives IL?

  2. berg says:

    I believe this is because people cheat and have other people do it for them.
    I’m from Chicago and I know that one of my friends from college did the online survey for his mother. If you actually want to do the survey yourself you can save $25.

    They charge $25 because it’s worth the $25 to be able to do it online. They seem to have found a good price point to maximize revenue. You can debate if the government should be acting in the way, but in Illinois that’s the way it is.

  3. Geekybiker says:

    Yah, I dont get it. So many places have extra “convenience” fee for doing things online. Tickets, paying bills, registering your car, etc etc. I just dont get it. Surely having people enter their own info on the web costs them alot less than employing someone to do the same thing if you mail things in or do it in person.

  4. Underpants Gnome says:

    As a fellow illinois traffic offender, I can say that the benefit of the online course is you can do the “4 hour” traffic school in only about 2.5 hours, so depending on what your time is worth it may still be cheaper.

  5. SOhp101 says:

    Most of those online payment convenience fees have to do with the merchant fees that the government has to pay… so they pass along those costs to you.

  6. VA_White says:

    Arizona’s online course will not let you finish faster. It makes you wait and answer these pop-up security questions for the entire time of the class. If you walk away and don’t answer the questions, you get locked out of the class and you’re screwed.

  7. krunk4ever says:

    It’s just as absurd as e-file for taxes and USPS convenience fees. As mentioned here: [www.krunk4ever.com]

    USPS already offers free postage printing for Priority Mail and Express Mail, but for first class, media mail, and parcel mail, they are only offering it through other services like Pitney Bowes, which charges a fee every time you use them. Just like I find the fact that E-file for taxes charges you a fee to save them time is ridiculous, it’s the same with USPS charging a fee for you to print postage. With online postage printing, you don’t have to hire as many clerks to man the post office, save the cost of printing stamps as the customer will print their own, and every letter will have a verified address and maybe even a barcode to help sorting.

  8. formergr says:

    The Illinois one did go a bit faster than 4 hours, but you can’t do it much faster than ~2.5 – 3 hours. The advantage to sitting in the classroom though is that you can have other browser windows open while the online traffic voice drones on and on (these parts you can’t skip or speed up).

    I recognized when I signed up that they are charging the extra money for the online course (even though it’s got to save them money in classroom rentals, teachers, materials, etc) because they know they can and people will pay it.

    Going into a classroom with my fellow offenders (at least some of whom are guaranteed to be creepy) on a Saturday morning for four hours, or laying on my couch clicking away while also reading other websites? I know which one I’ll pick, extra $25 or no.

  9. jgpenzen says:

    Similarly, in Illinois, you can renew your license plate online for an extra $1.75 instead of opting to stand in line at the Secretary of States Office. Seems counterintuitive doesn’t it?

  10. CreativeLinks says:

    Shocking you didn’t get good customer service from a state employee. Jus thank God it wasn’t Federal–you would still be on hold!

  11. MaximuM_MayheM says:

    My guess on why she said “watch your mouth” could be because they may monitor the lines and if someone heard him say that, they could get suspicious. It’s sort of like when I was getting on a plane about 2 years ago, and I had a lot of electronics with me. They searched the bag (it passed), and I joked that I wasn’t a terrorist, to which he said “I wouldn’t say that” or something like that. Just a guess.

  12. silverlining says:

    Wait… what?

    In Illinois, if you get a ticket you can choose to pay extra to attend “driving school.” This will prevent the state from ratting you out to your insurance company. A nice little racket, but not uncommon.

    Isn’t that a GOOD thing, to have an option to pay $50 to makes sure the incident isn’t reported to your insurance company, instead of your premium going up at least that much a month for god knows how long?

    And… did the online traffic school ended up ultimately costing $25, or was that in addition to the $10 that was already paid (or $35 total)?


    I can actually see the online version of something costing more, especially if there are security precautions that have to be made to ensure personal data isn’t released, etc. Maybe that’s what the CSR (surly as she was) meant by “scammers.”

    Hrm… what am I missing? Did I read the post incorrectly?

  13. Sudonum says:

    Is it a State Agency that actually runs the program or a contractor? It’s been my luck to have taken these classes in a few different states and in each one it was run by a independent contractor. The best online course was Alabama’s, took me less than 2 hours and I could spread that out over several days.

  14. DrRyanSullivan says:

    I actually just got a ticket today (I’m an Illinois resident), and it’s $40 extra for the driving class, not $25. That’s not including the $25 extra for the online version.

    Racket? You betcha. Just sent mine in, hoping I don’t have to go through the same fiasco as this guy.

  15. squikysquiken says:

    @silverlining: Yes, the post is confusing and I thing Orwell’s got bitten by the “rescheduling” fee. I got one of those tickets and went through the paces. When you get your ticket, you have 3 options: A/ Pay the fine, plead guilty. B/ Plead guilty, request court supervision and traffic school. C/ Request a trial.

    For me, option A was $75. B is $75 + $20 (I guess it went up since I took it) and C is go to court. If you pick B, you put a $95 check and indicate your preference of class (either online or in person plus a time and location). They send you a letter back with your class assignement (which could not be online depending on the circumstences). When you get online to take the class, you pay an extra $10 to the traffic school. So it’s an extra $25 to get traffic school and another $10 for the online version.

    Now, the paperwork indicate all the way that online has an extra fee. Also it indicates that if you don’t log in within a certain time or miss your assigned class, the $25 needs to be paid again to reschedule and avoid being convicted.

    Orwell would have had to pay the $25 again even if it wasn’t online and he had miss his assigned time. I agree it sucks, however he didn’t get charged twice because of the online class, just because he got it rescheduled (the CSR could have been clearer). Also, the paperwork indicates various deadlines, phone numbers and the fact that it’s your job to keep track of things.

    There is a lot of confusion there. And Orwell is probably oing to get madder when he realizes that they ask for $10 when he logs in.

  16. enm4r says:

    As a fellow IL traffic offender, I have had to go through this debate with myself as well. I actually risked the Sat morning class, and instead of 4 hours, it was about 1.5 hours, because the instructor had some emergency that she said couldn’t wait. While I have no idea what it was (irony would say a car accident) I was glad to get out in 1.5 and save money.

  17. alhypo says:

    @Geekybiker: It isn’t about how much it costs them. It is about supply and demand. The demand for the online course is probably higher–for obvious reasons–so they can charge more for it.

    Either that or the agency they contracted for the online system is gouging them, which really wouldn’t be surprising.

  18. iameleveneight says:

    OOOOR. Go to court, put in a plea bargain with the town or city attorney, pay $75-100 and NOT have to go to class and still have three months supervision.

    I’ve done this a few times myself and only ONCE did I have to go to class and that was for going WAAAAAAAAY over the speed limit.

  19. lawnmowerdeth says:

    Missouri is even more crooked… Traffic law attourneys advertise on TV all the time here. If you get a ticket, you call one of them, for another $100 or so they get your ticket changed to a non-moving violation. Govt gets money, lawyer gets money, everyone but the consumer is happy!

  20. Lee2706 says:

    Here in CA, you can post bail on your ticket and pay another $40 or so to have the privilege of attending traffic school. Yeah!

    Why the crap do I need to pay more to have the ability to take the traffic school course, which I also have to pay to attend?

    And then, you need to pay $10 for payment over the internet or phone. Why do I need to pay more when I am saving the city some labor time?

  21. alpha says:

    @lawnmowerdeth:

    consumer is happy because non-moving violation is less bad than moving violation.

    everyone wins! and consumer pays monies

  22. DjDynasty says:

    I live in Illinois myself, You *ONLY* are forced to do driving school in the state of Illinois if you are under the age of 21 when you request Court Supervision. Court Supervision is absolutely free in Illinois,and you can lie to the judge and tell them you have no other current court supervision currently, or previouslly, and they can’t proove you wrong, Even if it’s the same city, or county, because if you ask for court supervision, and pay the ticket that day right after court, that’s a “donation” to the city, as that ticket never happened as far as the city/county/state is concenered. Hope that helps Illinois Drivers, where speeding is an art form, and road rage is a sporting event!

  23. Sidecutter says:

    @Krunk4ever

    YOu PAY for E-file? There are free services available and listed right on the IRS’ own website that don’t cost a penny and work fine!

  24. rdldr1 says:

    Why do you Jag-offs call Illinois the sucker state? What queer state are you from Consumerist? Thats so I can point out where the terrorist should strike next.

  25. chutch says:

    @rdldr1:
    Well, this is news to me also RDLDR1, but apparently Ill. was at one point known as the Sucker State. [www.google.com] This link shows some information on it.

    As for the article, it seems a case of Ill. double dipping in the back pocket of those who have been caught speeding, but it may simply be as someone mentioned – a rescheduling fee. I’m just too familiar with local levels of government finding ways to squeeze an extra dollar out of the citizens. Even though I would normally show a little more compassion for those that are being eat alive by extra fees, I have never found myself defending too many of those getting speeding tickets. It seems like I have a near death experience caused by some form of bad driver every few weeks.

  26. UnStatusTheQuo says:

    @DjDynasty:

    The legislation enacted rules that only allow “court supervision” twice in a 24 month period now. After that, if you get another ticket, you’re screwed and the option isn’t available. Supervision is also granted in the discretion of the judge. It’s not something you automatically get.

    Also, if you’re in Cook County, there’s an administrative fee even if you or your attorney gets the fine waived. I think it’s like $30. Either way, dealing with a ticket is almost NEVER free anymore. I’m an attorney, and I don’t even bother with traffic tickets anymore… it’s just not worth it on many levels.

  27. JosephFinn says:

    The whole Sucker State thing is one of those odd Illinois names where nobody really knows where it comes from, just like Chicago, or the term “Windy City.” (Second City, on the other hand, we know exactly when that appeared, in a derisive article from a schumck of a New Yorker writer who spent a day here and didn’t bother to see a thing.)

  28. mac-phisto says:

    fight EVERY ticket. i got out of 2 this year on “nolle prosequi” judgements (there’s a lot of drunk drivers up here, so going a couple miles over the posted limit usually isn’t worth the prosecutor’s time). i got out of a ticket in new york b/c the cop didn’t show up. if you have a good record, the court may be inclined to give you a pass (trust me, i have a very bad record & they still give me passes).

  29. formergr says:

    @Sidecutter: I was under the impression you can only e-file your taxes for free if you are below a certain income level.

  30. EVERYTHING you do online at the Illinois DMV costs more than standing in line for two hours to do it in person. Makes me furious.

  31. Nytmare says:

    Supply and demand is not an excuse. This is not a for-profit business.

  32. LAGirl says:

    i live in CA and did an online traffic class once. it was great! instead of sitting in a hot, stuffy room for 8 hours, listening to some boring idiot ramble on all day, you can sit in your pajamas with a glass of wine. can’t remember if there was an additional fee. but if there is, totally worth it.

    best part is, you don’t have to finish it in one sitting. you can log off, log back on and pick up where you left off. piece of cake. haven’t had another ticket since then (7 years ago), but next time, would definitely do it online again.

  33. swalve says:

    Eyebrows McGee- two hours? Really? I doubt it. First of all, there is no such thing as an Illinois DMV. It is the Secretary of State’s office, and I’ve lived here my whole life and never spent more that a half hour at one.

    Secondly, it costs more to do online things because it costs them money to build and maintain the site. Technology isn’t cheap.

  34. FatLynn says:

    Does anyone else think that, if he was told to watch his mouth, maybe he was using some language that is not mentioned here? This sends up a red flag for me.

  35. Jerim says:

    @Geekybiker:

    The traditional way costs an employee’s time and paper to fill out.

    The online way usually costs several servers, someone to set them up, someone to set up the database and front end application. Someone to maintain the site, someone to come in on weekends and overnight if it goes down, someone to pull special data reports that weren’t previously programmed into the system, etc. Someone to perform periodic backups and verify those backups. Someone to document the system, someone to be in charge of the data connection, etc. Online systems are not cheap.