How to check your driving record and why it's important
By Mark Chalon Smith
Insurance companies look at several factors when setting rates and your driving record is one of the most important. If it's inaccurate, you could be paying more than you should. Knowing that, wouldn't it be wise to check it? Here's what you can do to keep your driving record accurate and current before shopping for insurance.
Why do insurance companies look at your driving record?
Authorities like your state's department of motor vehicles (DMV) add points to your record to assess your worthiness to drive, which is seen as a privilege. Insurers want to know if you have points on your record, and if so, how you got them, to determine how risky you are as a driver. If you have moving violations on your driving record, insurance companies will consider you a high-risk driver, which means there’s a good chance you’ll get into an accident and file a claim due to dangerous driving habits. Claims cost insurers money, so insurers charge high-risk drivers more to help pay for the anticipated higher cost of covering that driver. That’s why your car insuranc e policy is affected by tickets and points on your record.
How to get a copy of your driving record
You should pay attention to your record as much as the insurers. You can get a copy of your driving record, which are also known as MVRs (motor vehicle reports), through your state's DMV or the licensing agency handling driver's licenses.
Most states will let you request a copy of your record online, but some may require that you ask for it in writing or in person; the details are usually specified on the agency's website. You'll have to pay a small fee for the copy. A check of several DMV websites shows the fees are usually in the $10 to $20 range, with some as low as $2.
The California DMV, for instance, charges $2 for a report obtained online and $5 if you get it by mail or in person. You can print out an online copy, while one will be mailed to you if you request it by mail or in person. Both qualify as official documents, according to the DMV. The website walks you through the process as you complete form "INF 1125," which requires your driver's license number, vehicle registration number, current address and birth date.
The Insurance Information Institute (III) and William F. Harris, an independent insurance agent in the Los Angeles area, note that your insurer may provide you with your current record for free. Others may handle the paperwork but charge you the same fee required by the DMV.
"Just ask," says Harris. "Most agents I know of will help you get that information."
Harris and the III suggest checking your driving record regularly; perhaps as much as once a year or so. They add that you should avoid third parties (many operate online) that offer to provide your record for an additional fee.
Wrong information? Here's how to fix your driving record
When you file a request to dispute a driving record error, motor vehicle departments sometimes call the request a “claim.” Correcting mistakes can be fairly complicated because just about every state requires you to complete a form detailing why you think the listed violation is an error. In California, for example, you need to fill out "Report Of Incorrect Record Form DL207" or "Report Of Incorrect Driver Record Traffic Collision Form DL207A," which can be found online.
You'll be asked for your vehicle and driver's license information, along with details about the disputed violation, including when it occurred. A copy of the original ticket or any documentation obtained from the court where the violation was heard must be included for review, according to the DMV.
After receiving the form, the California DMV says it will either make a decision on your claim or require you to schedule a DMV hearing to provide more information. The process in California, as in other states, can take up to several weeks; the California DMV says expect four to six weeks before you'll be contacted about the claim.
What's on your driving record?
According to the III, here's what's commonly on your record, beyond driver's license status, license classification and defensive driving courses completed:
Moving violation convictions, including for speeding, and related fines
Fees and citations owed
License status and expiration
Points assessed for driving violations
Defensive drivers courses taken
How long do tickets and violations stay on your record?
It varies from state to state and depends on how bad the violation is. Speeding tickets typically mar your driving record in most states for three years, but a DUI can remain for several more.
In California, a speeding ticket usually stays for three years, but a DUI remains for ten In Tennessee, a DUI is on your driving record forever and in Florida it's takes 75 years before removal. In general, and in most states, a citation will remain for three to seven years.
How much do your rates go up for a ticket resulting in a conviction?
That varies, but a first DUI offense can raise it by 79 percent, according to analysis by CarInsurance.com. A speeding ticket 16 to 29 mph above the limit can jump it by 22 percent. You’ll see in the table below how much rates rise, on average, for common violations and accidents, for full coverage with a $500 deductible:
Average percent increase to rate
DUI/DWI third offense
DUI/DWI second offense
2 At-fault property damage accident over $2k
SR22 with 1 DUI
Hit and run - injury
Hit and run property damage
DUI/DWI first offense
Operating a vehicle in a race (highway racing)
2 speeding tickets 11 mph or over
At-fault bodily injury accident
1 At-fault property damage accident over $2K
Speeding 30+ over limit
1 At-fault property damage accident under $2K
Distracted driving ticket
Speeding ticket 16-29 MPH over limit
Speeding ticket 11-15 MPH over limit
Following too closely
Failure to yield
Speeding ticket 1-5 MPH over limit
Speeding ticket 6-10 MPH over limit
Failure to stop
Talking on cellphone ticket
Lapse of coverage for 60 days
Driving without a license or permit
Lapse of coverage for 30 days
Lapse of coverage for 7 days
Lapse of coverage for 15 days
2 comprehensive claims for over $2k
Driving without insurance
1 comprehensive claim for over $2k
1 comprehensive claim for under $2k
Insurance for high-risk drivers
You can still get insurance if you're stuck with a lousy driving record, which categorizes you as a high-risk motorist. The most obvious drawback is that a high-risk driver insuranc e policy will be more expensive, perhaps much more if you have a major violation , for instance a DUI, or multiple violations within six or 12 months.
If you’ve been busted for a moving violation, you can still save on car insurance by comparing car insurance companies. No two insurers charge the same amount for the same coverage, so if you don’t shop around, you can wind up overpaying.
For example, rate hikes vary by as much as 25 percent among the following companies after a conviction for exceeding the speed limit by 16 to 29 miles per hour:
State Farm – 12 percent
Allstate – 14 percent
Nationwide – 17 percent
Farmers – 23 percent
Progressive – 30 percent
Geico – 37 percent
If you have trouble finding a company that will sell you a policy, here are some of the car insurance companies that work with high-risk drivers and may insure you:
The General, a subsidiary of American Family Insurance
Titan Insurance, a subsidiary of Nationwide Insurance
Dairyland Insurance, a subsidiary of Sentry Insurance
Geico Casualty, the high-risk branch of Geico
Your driving record isn’t the only motorist report insurers check
Note that insurance companies also use other reports when deciding what you pay for coverage. These include:
CLUE report: This is a summary of your car insurance claims history. If a car insurance company has done any of the following and you want to review the accuracy of this, you can get a free copy by filling out a form at consumerdisclosure.com:
Denied you insurance
Increased your rates
Limited your coverage
Cancelled your policy
Insurance score: This report is compiled by your car insurance company, based on your credit history. The exception is for drivers in California, Massachusetts and Hawaii -- states that don’t allow insurance companies to use credit information when pricing insurance.