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— "Statistics show that people who take a defensive driving course are 17 percent less likely to be involved in an accident."

That percentage may not sound like a lot, but, according to District Judge John Skaggs, it can make a difference.

Skaggs has presided over the Pea Ridge Municipal Court for the past year and a half. Some persons judged guilty of traffic violations are ordered to attend a defensive driving course.

"Not everybody," Skaggs said. "It's done on an individual basis."

Skaggs also presides over municipal courts for Bentonville, Bella Vista and Cave Springs. He served as a judge in Bentonville for 23 years.

"It's an amazing defensive driving course," Sandy Button, Pea Ridge court clerk, said, adding that she voluntarily attended the class while taking a teen-aged driver to it. The course, Thompson Defensive Driving, is offered the first Saturday of the month at North-West Arkansas Community College. It costs $35.

Button said she saved 15 percent on her automobile insurance for each person that took the course.

She said there have been no complaints against Skaggs' requirements for attending defensive driving courses.

It is a policy for the Pea Ridge Police Department when issuing a traffic citation to tell the driver the reason for the stop and explain that the fine for the violation can be paid prior to the court date.

"If I issue them a citation, I tell them they have until the court date which is on the citation to pay the fine or appear in court," Police Chief Tim Ledbetter said, adding that all of his officers have been trained in the department's policy.

"They can pay it at City Hall or call City Hall to find out the amount of the fine and mail it to the address printed on the back of the citation," Ledbetter said, "or they can appear in court."

Ledbetter said some offenses require a "must appear" which requires the driver to appear in court, but those are specified when the citation is issued.

News, Pages 1 on 08/12/2009

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