Most people have received a speeding ticket or had a traffic violation. But does that mean you can’t achieve a clean driving record? And what constitutes a “clean” record anyway? We’ll delve deep to answer those questions and more.
Technically, a clean driving record- AKA Motor Vehicle Report (MVR) - means no tickets, points, convictions, licensing gaps, or nonregistration periods. Your driving record is almost certainly clean if you -
- Were never involved in road accidents, moving violations or similar incidents
- Have never been pulled over for any reason
- Never got speeding tickets or any other traffic tickets
- Haven’t been convicted of a crime
- Never forgot to renew your vehicle registration or driver’s license, and
- Haven’t had your license suspended or revoked.
But, even if you have had a violation, you could have a clean record if the infraction dropped off your history.
Things can still get confusing because each state has its own rules about record cleanliness, especially concerning when tickets drop off one's record. Fortunately, we’re here to explain what you need to know about driving record cleanliness. Plus, we’ll explore how to get an accurate overview of your driving history and clean up your record.
This post is for general informational and educational purposes only. Consult a qualified lawyer in your state if you have any specific questions pertaining to your driving record.
How Clean is a Clean Driving Record?
“Clean” means different things to different agencies, companies, and employers. But overall, you probably have a clean driving record if you have never gotten a ticket, been in an accident, earned “points,” or let your vehicle’s insurance or registration (or your driver’s license itself) lapse.
Still, there are nuances to each type of driving record request, depending on who’s asking.
What is Considered a Good Driving Record for Employment?
For jobs that don’t involve driving commercially, prospective employers often have a broad view of what’s “good” on a driving record.
Most employers want to see that their new hires are responsible and generally good citizens. A lack of speeding tickets, accidents, or point violations is typically desirable.
Employers may be wary of applicants with a history of DUI or DWI, especially multiple convictions. After all, you’re a more significant risk to the company if you have poor driving habits and could wind up on the evening news.
How Do Employers Get My Driving Record?
Keep in mind that employers can order driver’s records for hiring purposes by contacting the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). So, any information you put on your application can be verified if the employer requests records.
Of course, you must consent to the record release as well, which means you can block the company from seeing your driving record. In most cases, though, that means you won’t get the job.
Also, requesting that information and using it to determine who to hire does not constitute discrimination. Therefore, you’re left with little recourse if a job offer is rescinded because of your driving habits.
And if you lie on an application - for any reason - you risk being denied a job opportunity. So, if asked about your driving record, it's best to assume you will be asked to verify it and just go with the truth.
What is Considered a Good Driving Record for Getting a CDL?
When you pass your written and practical exam and earn a driver’s license, it’s usually a Class C license. Class C is for vehicles under a specific size, though specifications vary by state, and typically applies to passenger vehicles.
But a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is different. Not only do CDLs have more stringent testing requirements, but they also endorse a driver to haul heavy loads, transport dangerous chemicals, and manage many passengers.
A good driving record for CDL application, according to the DMV, means you do not have DUIs, moving violations, or license suspensions in your file. In general, most commercial vehicle companies prefer that you not have the following:
- DUI convictions that are less than five to seven years old
- Unpaid traffic tickets of any type
- Any history of speeding tickets
- A history of canceled, revoked, or suspended driver’s licenses
Good Driving Record Maintenance with CDL
Once you earn a CDL, you must maintain a clean driving record to very rigorous standards. Driving a commercial motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of over .04 is grounds for losing your CDL for one year. A second offense means you lose the CDL for life.
DMV also requires you to report all moving violation tickets (not parking tickets) when you work as a commercial driver. A DUI, leaving the scene of an accident, driving with a suspended driver’s license, speeding 15mph or more over the speed limit, and even following too closely are grounds for disqualification for a CDL.
What is Considered a Good Driving Record for Auto Insurance?
Insurance companies decide whether to offer you coverage - and at what car insurance premiums - based on how big of a risk they perceive you to be. In other words, your driving history will be taken into consideration when they create those car insurance quotes for you.
If you're hoping to get cheap car insurance, then keeping your record clean at the DMV is the way to go. Just like prospective employers, to figure out whether you’re high or low risk, car insurance companies pull your driving records. And while insurance companies may forgive some traffic violations or parking tickets, they don’t necessarily gloss over speeding tickets, red light infractions, car accidents where you were at fault, or DUIs. These are all likely to affect auto insurance rates.
Are There Auto Insurance Companies That Don’t Check Your Driving Record?
Typically, insurance companies check your driving record when you apply for coverage with them. And while they’re free to pull a general report (a standard abstract) anytime, most companies don’t. Instead, they only look over your details when approving or renewing a policy.
Even if you have a poor driving record, comparing insurance quotes from different companies or insurance agencies can help you find the best deal.
What is on My Driving Record?
Your driving record, or Motor Vehicle Report (MVR), provides details like:
- Your license expiration date
- Any license or registration suspensions
- Accidents reported to DMV
- Moving violations
The document will also summarize the number of points that are on your driving record if your state utilizes such a system. Some states offer standard abstract reports, too, which are shorter-term records.
Insurance companies often cannot get a full MVR; instead, they receive a shortened summary version.
What Are Points on a Driving Record?
Most DMVs throughout the United States operate on a traffic ticket points system. This is different than the points auto insurers assign to your risk profile, though. DMV point procedures vary by state, but each type of traffic offense correlates to a set number of points.
The more violations you have, the higher your point score rises, and the worse off you are when your insurer finds out. More points mean higher insurance premiums, but it also means the DMV could suspend or revoke your driver’s license.
In California, for example, a person with a Class C driver’s license is considered negligent and subject to revocation of their license if they receive four or more points within 12 months.
A combination of violations like not stopping for a school bus (Section 2816), disobeying traffic signals (Sections 21454 and 21455), driving on the sidewalk (Section 21663), and driving too slow (Sections 22400a-b) equals four points.
Plus, some infractions count for two points, such as reckless driving (Sections 23103a-b), speed over 100mph (Section 22348b), and hit and run (Sections 200001 and 200002).
How Far Back Does a Driving Record Go?
For recordkeeping purposes, your driving record goes back to when you first earned your learner’s permit or driver’s license. But certain infractions don’t remain on your record forever—it’s not a permanent document.
Plus, if you need a copy of your driving record for a job, earning a CDL, or for auto insurance, older details might not be relevant.
How Long Do Accidents Stay on Your Driving Record?
Most accidents remain on your driving record for about three years. But depending on how severe the accident was, such as whether anyone was convicted of a crime related to it, it could hang around longer.
Severe accidents or violations can stay on your driving record much longer, though. A DUI record, for example, usually lasts ten years. But a hit-and-run DUI, which involves a serious conviction, can stick around for 13 years in states like California.
Timelines vary based on your state, so the best way to find out what’s on your record is to access the files yourself.
How Long Does It Take for a Ticket to Show Up on Your Driving Record?
A ticket usually shows up on your record after the issue goes to court. Therefore, if you take preventative action, you could keep from receiving points for the violation. Fix-it tickets, however, typically don’t involve a court appearance, meaning they automatically go onto your record.
If you are involved in an accident, most states require you to notify the DMV ASAP, which can go on your record, too.
When Do Tickets Fall off Your Driving Record?
Again, the rate at which details fall off your driving record depends on the state you live in and the severity of the infraction. But in California, for example, most points (related to moving violations) stay on your record for 39 months (three years and three months).
Who Can View My Driving Record?
The good news is that no one outside the DMV or government agencies can view your driving record without your consent. The bad news is that to apply for credit, get car insurance, and even find employment, you might be required to give such permission.
Employers can access your driving record—with your approval—as part of their application process. Credit card companies, mortgage lenders, and other credit and financial agencies can solicit your consent to check your records.
And insurance companies, who have a relevant interest in your driving abilities, can view your driving history to see whether they want to provide you with insurance, and at what amounts.
Of course, you can also access your records or provide them to anyone you want.
How to Clean Your Driving Record
Whether your driving record is causing your insurance rates to skyrocket or preventing you from getting a job, there are ways to clean it up. You can get tickets removed and fix any errors by following set steps.
How to Get Tickets off Your Driving Record
There are a few ways to get tickets off your driving record. Some depend on acting quickly before a ticket goes in your file in the first place.
Fixing Fix-It Tickets
If you receive a fix-it ticket, it could stay on your record for years. But one way to avoid that problem is by acting quickly. As soon as you receive the ticket, have the problem repaired and submit the proof to DMV.
This way, you might catch the ticket before it’s even reported to DMV, saving yourself the stress of fighting it later.
Show Up to Court
You have the option to contest the ticket in court, regardless of the type of violation. Even red-light camera tickets—which automatically get mailed out when the camera “catches” you running a light—can be argued.
Sometimes, the judge will see things from your side and give you a reprieve. Other times, the officer who ticketed you might not show up to court, meaning the case is dropped. Or, you might negotiate a lower penalty that won’t impact your driving record (or insurance rates) as much.
When you receive your ticket in the mail, you’ll also receive paperwork that stipulates whether you can take action to remove the violation from your record. Typically, your choices involve a range of online driver safety courses - such as a defensive driving course - that will send a certificate of completion to either you or directly to the court.
You must pay for the course yourself and ensure you complete it before the court date on your ticket. But not all tickets are eligible for erasure with traffic school—especially criminal charges like DUIs.
In some states, you can request that a violation be removed from your driving record after a set amount of time. Timelines vary, so checking on your state’s DMV website can tell you whether this is an option and for which types of tickets.
How to Fix an Error on Your Driving Record
If you generate a driving record report and find an error, you must fix it ASAP. After all, your driving record can impact your job prospects, insurability, and even your credit.
To correct a faulty driving record that involves traffic violation mistakes, you typically need to contact the Secretary of State in your state. In some states, you can submit the appropriate forms to the DMV or other regulatory agency for correction.
If the violation is related to an accident or insurance claim, you should be able to contact that insurance company to handle the problem (even if you’re no longer insured by them).
How to Check My Driving Record (And How Much Does That Cost?)
Checking your driving record is a straightforward process in most states though it's not always free. You can either print out the record or have it mailed to you - but the request to do either is almost always submitted online. Your state is likely to need the following information from you when submitting the request -
- Your license audit number (ID number that's printed on the card)
- Date of birth
- Your SSN (or at least the last four digits of your SSN)
- A way to pay fees online (usually a credit card).
Let's see what it looks like in the largest states.
How to Check Your Driving Record in Texas
In Texas, you can order a driver record through the Texas Department of Public Safety website or via the mail. The documents aren’t available in person at any office, however.
Digital records are available immediately, while a hard copy takes about three weeks to be processed once the Department receives it.
For Texas residents, this service isn’t free—it costs anywhere from $4 (Type 1, status record) to $20 (Type AR, certified abstract of complete driver record). The option you choose will vary based on the reason why you need the report, so choose carefully.
How to Check Your Driving Record in Florida
In Florida, driving record reports are available through the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Their website offers a driver license check function that highlights insurance updates, driving school eligibility, and driver license tracking.
A more comprehensive report is available at driver license service centers. Options include three-year, seven-year, and complete driver record reports.
You can also complete a driver's license records request and mail it in with your fee payment. Costs range from $8 to $10, whether you visit your local service center or request a report via mail.
How to Check Your Driving Record in California
For California drivers, the DMV provides an online driver record request tool. When you request an online record, the cost is $2, while it’s $5 in person or via mail. Records through this portal are ten-year reports.
How to Check Your Driving Record in New York
In New York, all driving record reports are certified whether you order by mail, online, or in person at an office. You can get either a lifetime driving record or a standard abstract (covers “the past few years”) in New York, and either one costs $7.
What States Do Not Transfer Driving Records?
Don't assume that just because you're traveling across state lines, you can forget about your driving history. Leaving your zip code or state behind won't help. Most states share your moving violations (traffic tickets) with the other DMV's. That means that when moving to a new state, your record moves with you. It also provides a state with a way to monitor your out-of-state driving.
There are five states that don’t transfer driving records: Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. These states aren’t part of the Driver’s License Compact, which is an agreement among most states to exchange data and appropriately penalize drivers for out of state traffic violations.
For a state to be able to pursue points or tickets for a violation, the driver’s home state must have an equivalent law or statute.
Other Ways to Get Your Driving Record
For whatever reason, some drivers prefer not to go through DMV to get their driving records. And there are alternatives.
Ask Your Insurance Agent for a Copy of Your Driving Record
You might be able to get a copy of your driving record from your insurance agent. Due to the nature of the position, insurance agents can pull and investigate your driving record details.
Order a Report from Third-Party Agencies
Many third-party agencies provide driving history reports, but most charge a markup fee. However, if you have previously been licensed in multiple states, this might be the easiest way to obtain a motor vehicle report.
In most cases, though, consulting your local department of motor vehicles is the ideal way to check your driving record and verify that the information is correct. Then, you can take the necessary steps to have any items removed or updated.
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