In CA you can take traffic school if you have not taken it in he last 3 years. (violation date to violation date), AND if you where not going 20mph over the speed limit.
You do not NEED to go to court. The whole process can be done over the mail.
If you choose to contest it, there is no punishment for doing so, even if you are in the wrong.
Lastly: The chances of the officer showing up is 99.9%. If he does not show up, or shows up and lost his notes (happens more often then you think) your case will be dismissed.
Honestly, in your case, you will almost surely be convicted. If I where you, I would just pay the fee and go to traffic school. Traffic school will keep the points off of your record.
My source from all this info? Personal experience. I had a rough time with tickets at 16-18 years old.