As a driver, you have a long and winding history attached to your name. If you’ve ever had a minor traffic violation, or even a more serious offense like a DUI, then you know how your driving record can affect other parts of your life.
To anyone who’d want to see it, a clean driving record shows that you’re responsible at the wheel. Having no offenses on your report will benefit you because you can drive without restrictions and you’ll get a reasonable auto insurance premium.
But does that mean you can never get a traffic ticket? Or what about that ticket from when you were 16? Is that still on your driving record?
Here’s everything you’ve ever wanted to know about your driving record:
What’s a driving record?
A driving record, also known as a motor vehicle report, is a collection of all public records related to you as a driver. This includes information about accidents, license suspensions, tickets, mailing address, and more.
From the second you are granted a driver’s license, you have a driving record.
What’s on a driving record?
A driving record includes information about a driver, as well as their driving history. It will include things like traffic violations.
Different infractions stay on motor vehicle records for different periods of time. A small incident, like a speeding ticket, typically stays on a driving record for three years. But something much more serious, like a DUI, can stay on a record for a decade — or more, depending on the state.
Some states have a point system to keep track of driving infractions. If you’re over a certain number of points, your license could be suspended or revoked. Every state is different, so be sure to check the law in yours.
Why do insurance companies look at driving records?
Insurance companies keep a close eye on driving records. Not because they’re out to get you, but because it can help them predict how much of a risk you’ll be as a driver.
The more marks on a record, the riskier a driver is, and the more they’ll cost the insurance company to cover. And this is demonstrated in how much your premium is and how much it goes up after an infraction.
“Someone with a number of speeding tickets or other citations are more likely to have an accident, and accidents cost insurance companies money in the form of claim payouts,” says Jamie Page Deaton, executive editor of U.S. News Best Cars.
“So scrutinizing your driving record is one way for them to figure out how much they need to charge you to cover any potential claims you might make.”
Deaton adds that not all infractions on a driving record are weighted equally. The Zebra’s 2018 The State of Auto Insurance report showed that premium increases varied according to the kind of violation.
For example, not wearing a seat belt could get you a four percent increase, an at-fault accident could mean a 40 percent rate increase, and a hit and run would be an 85 percent premium hike.
How to check your driving record
The easiest way to check your driving record is to request an official copy of it from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Depending on your state, you can request a copy in person, online, or by mail.
Why you should pay attention to your driving record
Just like a credit report, a driving record can have mistakes.
Maybe you went to traffic school to lessen points from a violation, but it wasn’t reflected in the report. Or it’s possible you might be marked as “at fault” for something that you were found not at fault for.
Checking your motor vehicle report every year, or after an event like an accident is resolved, can help keep it up-to-date and accurate.
How to fix a mistake on your driving record
It can be frustrating to find a mistake on your driving record. But it’s possible to fix the error.
If you’re ever involved in some type of traffic incident, whether it’s a fender bender or an actual collision, it’s important to keep all the related paperwork on hand. This includes insurance judgments, payments, court resolutions, etc.
After finding an error on your report, contact your DMV right away. Have all of the necessary paperwork on hand and be prepared to explain in detail the error and how it should be fixed.
Each state has its own procedure for fixing errors on reports. Some may ask you to come in person, or to submit the dispute in writing.
Being a better driver only benefits you
Being a safer driver is important. Be alert, present, and cautious at the wheel. This will eventually lower your insurance premium, since you are less likely to drive recklessly and get into an accident.
Some insurance companies offer incentives for being a safe driver. There’s the good driver discount that’s offered to drivers who’ve been accident-free and violation-free for three to five years.
Beyond a discount, being a better driver will help to keep you and others safe while on the road. If you are looking to improve your driving skills, you can take a defensive driving class. Some insurers even offer a discount on the course itself. And some provide a discount after you’ve taken the class.
Tips on how to lower your insurance rate
If your driving record is up-to-date but things like speeding tickets are affecting your premium, it’s still possible to lower your rate. It just takes some patience.
“Like your credit report, negative information on your driving record will drop off over time,” Deaton says.
“Slow down, drive sober, don’t use a mobile device while driving, and generally following the rules of the road will keep you safe, rehab your driving record and save you money.”
If your rates continue to be sky-high, even after waiting it out, take this time to shop around. Getting multiple quotes from different insurance companies will only benefit you. Every insurance company treats traffic violations and tickets differently, so rates will vary.
Shopping around ensures that you’re getting the best rate possible. And even if it’s not a huge difference, there’s a potential for you to shave off a little bit from your high premium.