What's on your driving record?

A driving record is like a driver's report card with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Driving records include:

  • Driver's personal identification information
  • Driver's license details
  • Any accidents, citations, violations or convictions
  • Any fines or fees paid or owed
  • License suspensions or revocations
  • Any driving courses taken
  • Infraction points

How does your driving record impact your life?

Here are some of the things your driving record impacts. Many of them might surprise you.

1. Your car insurance premium

Your driving record has a direct affect on your car insurance premium. You’ll pay more if you have one or more moving violations or accidents.

A serious offense such as a DUI or reckless driving charge can label you a high-risk driver and push your premiums up 30% to 300%. Even a speeding ticket can bump your rates by 20%.

2. Your credit rating

If you choose not to pay a traffic or red light ticket, your credit rating will likely take a beating.

Most states will tack on fees if you fail to pay a ticket. Eventually, it will get turned over to a collection agency, and if it is left unpaid, your credit rating could drop quickly and by a lot. The next time you apply for a loan or even to rent an apartment, you could run into serious roadblocks.

That weaker credit record, in turn, may further drive up your car insurance rates.

3. You may be arrested

After it has destroyed your credit rating, that unpaid traffic violation may show up at your door in the form of an arrest warrant.

Depending on state law, it can also lead to a suspended license which makes it illegal to drive, and driving with a suspended license can lead to criminal charges as well.

A serious driving infraction, such as a DUI or reckless driving, creates a permanent criminal record that can have a dramatic impact on a potential sentence for criminal charges in the future.

According to Raj Dua, an attorney at the Dua Law Firm in Fairfax, Virginia, "The court will likely increase the sentence on a subsequent DUI and prosecutors are less likely to reduce any future charges."

4. You could lose your right to vote and many other rights

A DUI or reckless driving charge can be classified as a felony if the damage is serious or it results in a fatality. In many cases, the charge will be reckless homicide. Multiple DUIs can also result in a felony conviction. In New York, a second DUI in 10 years is a felony.

Convicted felons lose a number of rights that vary by state, but examples include:

  • The right to vote
  • Serving on a jury
  • Holding public office
  • Receiving federal aid for education
  • Becoming a firefighter
  • Traveling to foreign countries

5. Life insurance may cost more

How can a driving record affect life insurance rates? It makes you appear to be a riskier person and someone more likely to be in a fatal accident.

Kristofer R. Kirchen, president of Advanced Insurance Managers, says, "This may up your rates by a few hundred dollars a year, which over the course of a 30-year term policy can really add up."

6. Your license may be suspended

In almost all cases, your license will be suspended with a DUI or reckless driving charge. An unpaid ticket can also result in a suspension. The suspension will go on your record and, depending on the state, will remain there for three to five years.

The DMV will additionally refuse to register your vehicle if you have unpaid tickets on your record.

7. You might lose your job

A serious driving infraction, or even a slew of small ones, may put you on the unemployment line.

A suspended license can be a deal-breaker for your employer if you drive for a living. Delivery drivers, traveling salespeople or anyone who spends all day in a car may be out of a job. Even if you manage to hang on to your license, if you drive a company car, the insurance increase may be too much for your employer.

8. It might be harder to get a job in the future

There is a certain social stigma attached to a DUI or other serious driving convictions that can affect your future employment.

Many companies run a background check on potential employees and for some, a DUI is a red flag. Any job that requires driving or using a company car may be out of reach as the cost to insure you will be prohibitive.

9. You might have to choose a different career

Almost every police department forbids convicted felons from joining the force, which means drivers with a felony DUI on their records will be unable to serve their community. 

If you're a licensed pilot and are arrested for a DUI, you must send the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) a notification letter within 60 days. The FAA will investigate, and if it feels there is an alcohol or substance abuse problem, you may find your license pulled.

While a DUI doesn't automatically result in a suspended pilot's license, you may find your professional pilot opportunities severely limited.

10. Adopting a baby may become more difficult

Your driving record is not going to prevent you from adopting a baby, but it may make it more difficult. Adopt America warns that every agency has a different policy regarding a DUI and that any serious driving infraction must be addressed during the home study section of the process.

While a DUI that happened a long time ago should have no real effect, a more recent one may decrease your chances of being approved by an adoption agency.

What can you do to improve your driving record?

Here are some things to consider when trying to improve your driving record:

  • Take a driver safety course: This will help you become a better driver but also may remove infraction points from your record.
  • Expungement: Depending on your state, you may be able to request certain violations be expunged from your record after a specified period of time.
  • Contest the ticket: If your driving record is already questionable, another infraction could be devastating. In that case, it may be worth your effort to hire an attorney and contest the ticket.
  • Practice safe and responsible driving: This is the most important and most effective thing you can do and teach your teens as drivers. Avoid traffic violations and tickets entirely by being a safe and responsible driver.

Auto insurance FAQs

How can I pull my driving record?

Depending on your state, you may be able to request a copy of your driving record for a small fee. If this doesn't work, you may be able to request the information from your car insurance company since they access your driving records with the DMV to determine insurance rates.

What is considered a bad driving record?

Typically, anything listed on your driving record is considered bad, such as a ticket or traffic violation. The more infractions or negative marks on a driving record, the worse the driving record is. A good driving record should be free of tickets, traffic violations, convictions and fines.

What is a bad MVR score?

A bad MVR (Motor Vehicle Record) score refers to a driving record with multiple violations or infractions, such as speeding tickets, accidents, DUIs (Driving Under the Influence), or other serious driving offenses. The severity of a bad MVR score can vary depending on the number and type of violations. Insurance companies often use MVR scores to assess risk and determine insurance premiums.