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How to clear your driving record

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If you’ve had the experience of earning a moving violation while driving, you may ask yourself how can I clear my driving record? or how do I get a ticket off my record? You may even find yourself wondering if it’s even possible to regain a clear driving record.

The answer to all those questions is “yes.” Although it may not be possible to scrub your license completely clean, there are things you can do to mitigate the damage caused when you are ticketed by the police, or worse.

How do driving records work?

Your driving record, also known as a motor vehicle record, is the history of you as a driver. It includes detailed information on any tickets, suspensions, accidents and more. It’s available from your DMV or your insurer. A printed copy is called an abstract of driving record.

Infractions stay on your license for a certain number of years, which are determined by the state you live in. In New York, for example, accidents are displayed for three years, while DWI convictions stay on your record for 15.

Most states in the U.S. follow a system that assigns a certain number of points to you for each infraction. In Florida, for example, you’ll earn three points for driving over the speed limit by 14 mph or less, and four points if you go over that. Earning more than 12 points in a year will result in a suspended license. 

Each state has its own way of assigning points, so you’ll want to check with your state’s DMV to determine the consequences of earning points if you have accumulated one or more moving violations. Earning multiple points may result in penalties including suspension or revocation of your license.

How do you clean a driving record?

Since you can lose your driving privileges if you have enough points, it pays to keep a clean driving record. The easiest way to do this, of course, is to be a careful and considerate driver. But can you clear your driving record? Yes, even if you’ve already accumulated some points, there are a few tactics that may clear your record.

Take a safe driver course

Many organizations, from the AARP to your local AAA office, offer state-certified defensive driving courses. They are inexpensive — usually around $30-40 — and take 4-12 hours to complete. They may be online or in person. 

Depending on your state’s regulations, taking one may result in the expunging of a certain number of points from your license. It may also work in your favor if you are in traffic court. For a serious infraction, such as a DUI, it won’t eliminate your points, but it may make the judge more inclined to be lenient. 

Contest your ticket

Let’s say you earned a ticket for erratic driving, but in reality you were swerving to avoid hitting an animal that the police officer didn’t see. It may make sense to contest your ticket in court, since there were mitigating circumstances that you feel warrant review. 

Even if you are guilty, taking the time to go to court may help because the judge may reduce your penalty or eliminate it altogether if, for example, you have taken a defensive driving course and can show the certificate of completion to the judge. 

In a worst-case scenario, where a conviction will result in the loss of your license, it may be worth the expense to hire a lawyer skilled in traffic infractions who can help you craft a discovery motion and attend the court hearing with you to advocate on your behalf.

Fix minor causes of tickets

Many tickets are given out by the police for relatively minor causes, such as a tail light that’s out, or a non-working blinker. You may be able to keep it completely off your record by completing the fix quickly and presenting your fixed car at the local precinct office within a certain amount of time, such as 24 hours. 

Expunging your record

Consider asking the DMV in your state if they will expunge convictions from your driving record. In some states, they will do this if you take a defensive driving course. In others, you must go for a certain time with no new offences. If you meet the criteria, you’ll need to fill out a form and there will be a fee imposed, but this can be worth it if it moves you closer to a clean record.

How do traffic violations affect insurance rates?

It’s unfortunately true that traffic violations will probably cause a rise in your insurance premium. Some companies forgive the first infraction, however, and the amount of increase you’ll see varies from company to company. The rate of the increase is also related to the severity of your infraction: a DUI will cause a greater increase than a simple speeding ticket, for example. 

Although your own situation is unique to your particular circumstances, here are some average rate increases you’ll see for a variety of infractions.

Average annual premium with clean driving recordAverage annual premium with speeding ticketAverage annual premium with one at-fault accident
Full coverage (includes collision and comprehensive)$1,555$1,867$2,090
Minimum coverage (includes only liability)$545$674$784

The good news is that your premiums should drop down again if you have several years (depending on the infraction) of clean driving. So it pays to follow speed limits and other rules of the road to avoid any further issues with your record.

How long do traffic violations affect insurance rates?

In general, the severity of the infraction determines how long it stays on your record. This varies from state to state, just as the number of points you receive varies depending on where you live. 

In California, for example, the following rules apply:

  • One-point violations, such as speeding or running a red light, remain on your record for three years.
  • Two-point violations such as a DUI or hit-and-run, remain on your record for 10 years.

Your insurance rates will take that into account, and so your premiums will remain high as long as there are points on your license. This doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t try our suggestions above to decrease or eliminate your points more quickly.

The takeaway

  • Your driving record is the history of you as a driver. It contains any infractions you’ve accumulated, which are usually assigned points.
  • Too many points may lead to a suspension or revocation of your license.
  • There are tactics you can try to clear your record, such as taking a defensive driving course, contesting the ticket or asking for your points to be expunged.
  • Anything other than a clean driving record will most likely increase the amount you pay for your car insurance premium.

What is a clean driving record? It’s one with no traffic infractions. It pays to protect your clean driving record, but if you’ve accumulated points, there are some strategies you can use — such as contesting the ticket in court to reduce or eliminate those points. The benefit? A clean driving record leads to low car insurance premiums; you’ll be penalized by your insurer if you rack up traffic convictions.

Mary Van Keuren

After 30 years as a writer and editor in academia, Mary now writes full-time for the insurance and finance industries. Her work has appeared on Reviews.com, TheSimpleDollar.com and Bankrate.com, as well as other consumer-focused websites.

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