Although the price isn't the only thing to consider when shopping for auto insurance, getting the best insurance at the lowest cost is a priority for most consumers. One of the top ways you can save on your car insurance is by having and maintaining a clean driving record. But what, exactly, do auto insurance companies consider a clean driving record?
What is a driving record?
It's helpful to start off this discussion with a clear understanding of what is meant by a driving record. A driving record is essentially the history of an individual's driving convictions. If you've ever received a traffic citation that progressed to a conviction, that information is part of your driving record for whatever length of time the state has determined this information should be retained.
If you came out of a traffic stop with a written warning instead of a citation, that will not go on your driving record. However, while it won't appear on your driving record, there are police departments that require officers to record the issuance of written warnings in their computer systems.
A driving record is the recorded history of a person's vehicle infractions, and a clean driving record is a driver's history that reflects no citations or points on their license.
What types of driving infractions go on a driving record?
If you're looking to maintain a clean driving record, you must follow traffic laws. If you're caught and convicted of violating a traffic law, it goes on your driving record.
This includes infractions such as:
- Mechanical violations, such as a broken taillight/brake light/turn signal; a dangerous or unsecured load; and missing or obscured license plates. You can get a ticket for this type of violation just as you can with a moving violation.
- Moving violations, like a speeding ticket, failure to use a turn signal, causing an accident (considered at-fault accidents), or running a red light. Even just a single speeding ticket can raise your insurance premiums.
- Major violations such as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol; hit-and-run; or reckless driving even when it doesn't result in an accident.
- Driving without a license or driving with a suspended license
- Additionally, many states are increasing penalties for distracted driving, including using a hand-held phone. In some states, you can not legally have a snack or drink while driving.
- Finally, multiple offenses can add up to a bad driving record, even if it is just composed of minor traffic violations.
This last item brings up an important point: traffic laws vary from state to state, and can change. It is up to you to know and follow the law. If you get pulled over outside of your home state for violating a traffic law that doesn't carry a penalty in your home state, in most cases that violation goes on your record. Similarly, if you move out of state, any points on your driving record will typically follow you to your new state of residence.
If you want to keep a clean driving record, know and follow the traffic rules wherever you are driving. This is especially true of speeding.
Why is it so important to have a clean driving record?
A clean driving record is like having a good credit score. While a good credit score demonstrates you are a good credit risk and are unlikely to default on a loan, a clean driving record shows you are a good driver and are unlikely to cause an accident.
This is why insurance companies look at driving records when providing quotes for insurance policies, and it's why your insurance premiums might go up if you get a speeding ticket. Data we examined showed a speeding ticket increased rates by $289 per year. A DUI comes with even heftier increases — more than $1,000 per year on average.
Simply put, maintaining a clean driving record means cheaper auto insurance premiums.
How long does a violation stay on your driving record?
The number of years a violation remains on your driving record varies depending on the state you live in and how serious the infraction was.
In most states, a point system is used. There are violations for which drivers can be given a ticket, but not assessed points on their licenses, and violations that have points assessed this, again, varies by state law. Drivers are assessed points on their driving record that correspond to the severity of the violation; states also determine how long a violation remains on record.
For example, Virginia has three groupings of demerit points: three points, four points, and six points. Within those point categories, the number of years a violation remains on a driving record varies. A violation assessed three points for improper passing remains on someone's record for three years, while a reckless driving conviction that is assessed six points will remain on a driving record for 11 years.
These are general guidelines in Virginia, and under some circumstances, points can remain on a driving record even longer. All of this variation is in one state, so if you are curious about how long points will remain on your driving record, it's a good idea to check what the limits are in your state.
How can I keep a clean driving record?
Stating the obvious method first: to keep a clean driving record, know and obey traffic laws wherever you drive. The easiest way to maintain a clean driving record is to not rack up any violations in the first place.
If you do have violations on your record, check with your Department of Motor Vehicles to see how long they will remain on your record. In some states, taking a defensive driving course can help to either reduce the number of points assessed or may even avoid having a violation posted to your record entirely.
Having a clean driving record can save drivers significant money on their auto insurance premiums, so it is worth striving for having an unblemished driving record. But, if you do have a minor violation, take the time to investigate how long it will remain on your record or see if there's a way to reduce the penalty. And, when the time comes and your violation is removed from your record, check with your insurer to see if you qualify for a good driver discount.
If you're unhappy with your current car insurance rates, it may be time to shop around for a better company. You can see which companies other drivers have rated the highest on our best car insurance rankings, or try using our car insurance calculator.
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