We’ll start with the bad news: your driving record is forever. Any conviction for a speeding ticket or other moving violation like a car crash, illegal cell phone use or DUI (even convictions you might have gone to traffic school for) stay on your record unless they are expunged by court order. (Or, if you successfully fight a ticket in court and are not convicted, it won’t ever go on your record in the first place.)
Now the good news: even though these convictions remain officially on your record, they don’t affect your auto insurance or license eligibility forever. In fact, in most states, convictions for things like speeding and even collisions won’t affect your insurance or license eligibility after just a few years.
Understanding Your Driving Record
“License eligibility with the state and your car insurance rate are mutually exclusive, which can be confusing for drivers,” explains Neil Richardson, licensed insurance agent and adviser at The Zebra.
Your Driving Record & Car Insurance Rate
Let’s start with how your driving record affects your car insurance rate. The rules for how long your insurance rate will be affected by a moving violation or a collision you caused don’t vary much by state. “For any particular violation, there is what’s called a chargeable period, after which an offense will no longer affect your insurance rate,” Neil explains.
Chargeable periods (true for almost every state):
- Moving violation (speeding tickets, cell phone violations): 3 years from the date of the offense
- At-fault crashes: 3 years from the date of the offense, though after 3 years, an at-fault collision can still affect your insurance rates for 2 more years; from year 3 through year 5, you’ll be ineligible for an additional Good Driver discount, meaning you’ll pay more than you would had you not had the crash
- DUI: 3 years from the date of the offense in every state except California, where a DUI will impact your insurance rate (quite significantly) for 10 years.
Here’s where things get a little more complicated. Not at-fault wrecks, comprehensive claims, and personal injury protection (PIP) claims can also impact your car insurance rate for 3 years, but not in every situation and not in every state and usually not to the degree that moving violations and at-fault crashes will.
When you’re shopping for insurance, agents will ask you about your violation and crash history. Be truthful because they will find out anyway, and as we’ve shown, dishonesty can negatively impact your rate. Car insurance companies use a motor vehicle report (MVR) to determine each driver’s rate. Each driver’s MVR comes from the state’s department of transportation and shows any moving violation or collision for which a police officer wrote a report. More offenses will likely mean higher car insurance rates, but each company works out the particulars a little differently.
In our latest research, we found that, on average, violations impact car insurance rates quite differently, with more severe penalties for more severe violations. Here’s how much more the average annual insurance premium cost U.S. drivers after each violation:
- Cell phone violation (including texting): $31
- Speeding 6-10 miles over the limit: $270
- Speeding in a school zone: $278
- Speeding 11-15 over: $281
- Speeding 16-20 over: $305
- Speeding 21-25 over: $330
- Speeding in a 65 mph zone: $387
- At-fault crash: $612
- Reckless driving: $997
- Racing: $1,045
- DUI: $1,057
Your actual policy increases will vary, of course, by insurance company and by the rest of your profile. Remember, these increases are for 3 years, except where the fines stick around longer (like a DUI in California).
Your Driving Record & License Eligibility
Each state determines how each traffic offense affects its citizens’ license eligibility. Some states use points, and some states don’t, but all states keep track of each driver’s’ record and suspend or revoke licenses depending on statewide laws. You can find out how your state tracks your driving record with our detailed list.
Points (or accumulated violations if you live in a state that doesn’t use points) added to your license by your state’s DMV have nothing to do with auto insurance and they don’t follow the same rules.
“Consider a state like Connecticut, where the DMV only cares about speeding tickets for two years,” says Neil. “So, say a Connecticut resident got a speeding ticket two and a half years ago, then when an insurance agent asks them if they have any traffic offenses, they might say, ‘I don’t have any points on my license.’ This will be true, but the two-and-a-half-year-old ticket will still be within the insurance company’s chargeable period. So, while the DMV might not care about the ticket anymore, insurance companies absolutely will.”
Take Control of Your Driving Record
If you’re unsure what might be on your driving record, you can request a copy through your state’s department of transportation/DMV for a small fee.
Tickets, even from other states, stick around on your official driving record permanently unless you do something about it. One of the best proactive steps you can take is to petition to have a violation expunged from your record. In most states, you can petition after just a few years. However, not all states allow you to expunge tickets, and the timeframe and rules for expungement vary by state.
Each time you’re issued a moving violation, consider whether you think you have a case for fighting the ticket in court. As we noted above, if you’re never convicted of a violation, it won’t ever go on your record. You’ll most likely need an attorney to be successful in your bid (unless you know traffic law well), and it’ll cost you, but if you think you were issued a questionable ticket, going to traffic court is an option.
Most important of all, though, is to drive safely. (Duh.) Fewer incidents and collisions keep your driving record and insurance rates in better shape, keep the roads safer, and altogether reduce a lot of hassle.