Your driving record is one of the key factors that affects how much you pay for car insurance. In general, a good driving record results in lower premiums. A history of accidents or serious traffic violations, on the other hand, makes you a higher risk to insure and means you'll likely pay more.
But how do you find out what's on your driving record and how that may be affecting your premiums? If you're planning to shop for new insurance coverage, learn how to check your driving record and interpret the information that's included.
- The Department of Motor Vehicles in your state can provide copies of your driving records, typically for a fee.
- Different types of driving records may be used for different purposes, such as background checks or court appearances.
- Driving records can include a history of minor and major traffic violations, including speeding tickets, accidents and/or arrests for more serious violations such as driving under the influence.
- Your driving record can affect what you pay for car insurance premiums, though accidents and other traffic violations can eventually age off your driving history.
What's In Your Driving Record
Your driving record can include a variety of information regarding your history as a driver. What's included and how long that information remains on your driving record can depend on the laws in your state. In North Carolina, for example, your driving record includes:
- Your name and address
- Driver's license number
- License status (i.e. valid, expired, suspended, etc.)
- Convictions related to motor vehicle violations
- Accident information
- Driver control actions, such as failure to yield or failure to come to a complete stop
Any pending charges you might have for traffic violations would not show up on your record, however.
It's also important to note that you can have different types of driving records. Using North Carolinas an example, again, drivers can have:
- Residential history record: This record lists your residential driving history.
- Certified true copies: A certified true copy is a complete driving record designed for official use by government and state agencies as well as courts.
- Complete extract copies: This driving record is designed for personal use by a driver but can also be furnished to employers or insurance companies.
- Limited extract copies: A limited extra copy shows your three-year driving history and can be used by employers as part of a background check or by insurance companies to set rates.
New York, on the other hand, offers three types of driving records: standard, limited and commercial. The standard driving record only includes information the DMV is required to keep, which is typically the most recent few years of driving history. A limited driving record contains all the information the DMV has about a driver while a commercial driving record lists driver information for all actions, including suspensions, for any type of vehicle in any state.
A driver's license is not a requirement for having a driving record; any driver can have an official record if they've been ticketed, had a license suspended or been convicted for a traffic violation.
How to Check Your Driving Record
The process for checking your driving record can vary depending on which state you live in. But generally, it involves:
- Determining which type of driving record you'd like to receive
- Completing the appropriate application
- Providing proof of identification, including your Social Security number
- Paying any applicable fees
For example, in South Carolina, it's free to get a copy of your driving record points summary online. But if you want to view your three-year or ten-year driving record you'll need to pay a $6 fee. North Carolina charges $5 and $7 respectively for a three- or seven-year driving record, which is the kind used by insurance companies and employers.
You can find out what's required to obtain a driving record in your state by contacting your local Department of Motor Vehicles or Department of Public Safety. Many states allow you to request a driving record online, though some may require you to make your application in person.
States can allow someone to check the record of another driver, if it's for a valid reason that's allowed by law.
How Insurance Companies Use Your Driving Record
When applying for car insurance, the insurance company conducts a risk assessment as a part of its underwriting process. This assessment, or selection process, includes determining how to classify the applicant—low risk versus high risk, for example.
The best way to assess the applicant is to review their driving history, which typically includes moving violations and accidents, including at-fault and not-at-fault. The insurance company can estimate the level of insurance risk based on the frequency and severity of recent driving violations and collisions.
While your car insurance company cannot pull your full motor vehicle report (MVR), it does pull a summary listing your most recent tickets, accidents, and convictions. The lookback period for your MVR varies by state and the insurance company. Generally, this period is between three and five years, but it can be much longer. For example, in California, a DUI remains on the MVR record and counts as an offense for 13 years, whereas an accident has a look-back period of 39 months.
If there are several accidents or traffic infractions, the driver is more likely than other drivers to have similar problems in the future, increasing the insurer's liability. Also, they will probably make multiple, costly insurance claims. As a result, the insurance company may deem the driver too risky to insure or may charge an increased rate to compensate for the probability it will pay out claims.
Your credit score, age, where you live, and the type of car you drive are among the other factors insurance companies consider to determine premiums.
What Is Included in the MVR?
In addition to accidents and moving violations, the MVR also includes information about any criminal convictions associated with the driving record, such as DUIs and any incidents in which the driver failed to appear at a scheduled court hearing related to a driving infraction.
The MVR also supplies the insurance company with information about any license restrictions, such as not being allowed to drive at night due to poor eyesight. Any prior license suspensions or revocations within the lookback period are also included.
What If My Record Isn't Clean?
Luckily, even if you have to pay an increased insurance rate due to a less-than-favorable MVR, it may not be permanent. Once your infractions are older than the lookback period, they drop off the insurance summary and are no longer considered when determining your premium. If your insurance company has a lookback period of three years, for example, an accident you had in 2017 drops off your record in 2020. If you have no new collisions, your insurance rates may decrease at your next policy renewal.
How Long Accidents Stay on Your Driving Record
The length of time an accident can stay on your driving record can depend on state law. Typically, an accident can stay on your driving history for between three and five years. Depending on the state, the countdown period may begin from the date of the accident or the end of the first year in which the accident occurred.
If you have an accident on your record, the passage of time could help you secure better insurance rates if you have no new accidents or violations. In the meantime, you can ask about discounts that might reduce your premiums or raise your deductibles for a lower premium. And of course, you can always shop around for the best car insurance rates to find the best deal on coverage.