What Your Driver's License Status & DMV Driving Record Really Mean
Having a valid driver’s license and maintaining a good driving record are essential parts of safe driving. It’s important to understand your status so you can avoid serious penalties (like a license suspension) and trouble down the road. You could have unpaid speeding tickets or points and not even know it!
Aside from being a pain to deal with, this can also affect your ability to get insured and how much you pay for car insurance. In this guide, you’ll learn:
- How to check your driver’s license status
- What causes a license suspension and the penalties for driving with a suspended license
- What to do if your license is expired
- The penalties for driving without insurance
- How to reinstate your license
Why Check Your Driver’s License Status?
Your driver’s license status record usually includes information about your license’s current standing (e.g., valid, expired, suspended, or revoked), plus your full name, address, and date of birth. It’s important to check your driver’s license status to make sure your license is valid and that your information is correct, so you can avoid penalties.
Many drivers are surprised to learn that their license is no longer valid. You may be familiar with some of the more well-known reasons why your license can be suspended, like unpaid tickets or driving without insurance, but it can actually be suspended or revoked for a multitude of reasons depending on your state and circumstances.
For example, in Florida, your driver’s license can be suspended for failure to appear at a traffic summons, failure to pay child support, or failure to meet minimum vision requirements, among other reasons. What’s more, there are varying requirements (financial or otherwise) that you may need to meet to reinstate your license.
Checking your driver’s license status is also an opportunity to verify that your information is correct. Maybe you forgot to submit proof that you completed traffic school, or perhaps you overlooked filing an SR22/FR44 through your insurance company.
Whatever the case may be, verifying your driver’s license status can serve as a reminder to take care of important paperwork so you can drive legally. Plus, correcting information and maintaining a clean driving record could set you up for a more affordable auto insurance rate.
How to Check Your Driver’s License Status
You can order a copy of your driver’s license status online, in-person, or by mail. You’ll need to share your full name, date of birth, and driver’s license number.
Start with your state’s online resources by searching for your state here. Depending on how your state handles all things driver’s license-related, you should be able to order a copy of your driver’s license status online through your state’s:
- Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
- Department of State
- Department of Revenue
- Department of Public Safety
- Motor Vehicle Division
Note that many states charge a small fee (usually around $10) to access your driver’s license status. You can also go through a third-party website; however, this option tends to be more expensive.
Why Your DMV Driving Record Matters
A driving record, also known as a motor vehicle report (MVR), is a public record of your driving history. In addition to listing your driver’s license status, it also includes any tickets, violations, and accidents during the time period for which you requested the report.
When you apply for auto insurance, auto insurance companies typically review your driving record to predict how much risk you pose as a driver.
Some auto insurance companies refuse to insure drivers with certain violations on their driving records, which can make it tough to get insured and drive legally. However, some coverage providers, like Direct Auto, are different! With Direct, you can get the coverage you need and the respect you deserve, regardless of your driving history.
What information is on a driving record?
If you have a driver's license, you have a driving record. A driving record typically includes the following information:
- Driver's license status (e.g., valid, expired, suspended, or revoked)
- Driver's license expiration date
- Traffic tickets, accidents, violations, and fines
- Driver’s license points
- Driver’s license classifications and endorsements
- Moving violation and DUI/DWI convictions
- Unpaid fines and fees
- Defensive driving courses attended
What are points on your driving record?
As the legal website Nolo.com explains, most states add points to your driving record if you get ticketed for speeding or other traffic violations.
The Department of Motor Vehicles in most states uses these points to punish bad behavior behind the wheel and discourage it from happening again. The more severe your violation, the higher the number of points that will be added to your driving record, and if you reach a certain number of points, the state can take action against you like suspending your driver’s license.
What are common reasons for getting points on your driving record?
Speeding is one of the biggest reasons for getting points on your driver’s license. The number of points for speeding goes up based on how much over the speed limit you were driving.
For 1 to 10 MPH over the limit, you’re likely to have only one point added to your license. However, if you were traveling 40 MPH over the limit, you’ll probably see a minimum of five points added to your license.
Other examples of violations that might cause you to get points on your driving record include but aren’t limited to:
- An illegal turn
- Running a stoplight
- A motor vehicle accident
- Passing a stopped school bus
Fortunately, you’re not stuck with these points forever. Depending on the state where you’re licensed to drive, the points typically disappear after one to five years — as long as your driving record remains clean during that time.
How to Check Your DMV Driving Record
You can order your driving record from your state's DMV or a third-party vendor. A third-party provider may be able to provide it more quickly, but going through your state’s DMV is usually a more affordable option.
Who looks at my driving record?
Driving records are often consulted during background checks and court proceedings and by potential employers and auto insurance companies! Most of the time, your driving record can't be viewed without your permission. State privacy laws protect your information.
You may want to consider keeping an eye on your driving record for your peace of mind. Like any other public record, you want to make sure it's accurate! Identities can be mistaken, points can fail to be removed after a corrective class, and tickets can go accidentally unpaid.
Checking your driving record and correcting any mistakes could also lead to lower car insurance rates, which begs the question: What's the relationship between driving records and car insurance?
Do driving records impact my car insurance rates?
Your driving record can absolutely impact your car insurance rates. Since auto insurance companies can't predict the future, they have to look to the past for clues as to what the future might hold for a potential policyholder.
On one hand, a spotless driving record tells an insurance company that you could be less risky to insure. If you haven't had any trouble on the road in the last few years, the chances are good that you won't have any in the next few.
On the other hand, a driving record that shows multiple car accidents, a suspended driver's license, and a long list of speeding tickets tells an insurance company that you might be likely to file a claim and therefore riskier to insure. Being categorized as a high-risk driver often means higher car insurance rates.
Keep in mind that some auto insurance companies will cancel a customer's insurance policy for major traffic violations like a DUI/DWI, violations that result in a driver’s license suspension, or for making too many claims within a certain period of time.
Driving Without a License
There are several reasons someone might drive without a license, but none of them are good. And all of them are against the law. Even if you just forget your license at home when running to the grocery store, you can get in serious trouble if pulled over. You might believe you can talk your way out of a ticket in this situation, but some police officers won’t be forgiving. You could be forced to go to court to try to get the ticket dropped from your record.
Additionally, some drivers might be driving without a license because their license has expired or has been suspended. These reasons could come with even steeper consequences than simply being forgetful. No matter the reason, driving without a valid license can lead to serious penalties, and you should never do it.
Driving With an Expired License
Driving with an expired driver’s license can be risky. Every state sets its own rules about how often a driver must renew their license and enforces its own penalties on drivers who are caught driving with an expired license. Although the penalties for driving with an expired license typically aren’t as severe as the penalties for driving with a suspended or revoked license, that’s not to say they aren’t serious.
Driving with an expired license can result in fines and points on your driving record, which can also affect your insurance coverage. For example, if you’re caught driving with an expired license, you might lose your auto insurance coverage altogether or have to pay a higher premium if your insurance company finds out you’ve been driving with an expired license.
How can your insurance company find out? One common reason is if you get into an accident while driving with an expired license.
So, how do you avoid driving with an expired license? Be aware of when your driver’s license is set to expire and take care of renewal early. Most states will send you a reminder, and they give you a short grace period to get it taken care of, even if you’re slightly past the expiration date. Again, the penalties depend on where you’re licensed, but they’re often serious. So, make sure you’re familiar with the renewal process, and take care of it as soon as possible.
Driving With a Suspended License
What causes your driver’s license to be suspended or revoked, and what can happen if you drive during this period of time? Driving with a suspended license is extremely risky. Not only are you subject to harsh legal penalties, but it can also impact your insurance rate.
Keep reading to learn why you really don't want to drive with a suspended license, how it can affect your insurance rates, and what you can do to get your license back on track.
What is a suspended license?
A suspended license is a driver’s license that is temporarily out of service. You cannot drive with a suspended license unless you are eligible for a restricted license that allows you to drive to and from work or school and nowhere else.
Your license can be suspended for a number of reasons depending on your state. Driver’s license suspensions are usually temporary, and there are two types:
- Definite suspension: This type of suspension ends once the suspension period ends and you've paid the necessary fees determined by your state. Situations that often lead to a definite suspension include drug or alcohol-related moving violations, driving without car insurance, or racking up too many traffic tickets.
- Indefinite suspension: This type of suspension requires you to take some sort of action for your suspension to be lifted, regardless of how long it takes you to complete that action. Depending on your state, your license may be indefinitely suspended for failure to pay traffic tickets, child support, or taxes, or if you have a medical condition that could make it unsafe for you to be on the road, such as uncorrected vision.
What can lead to a license suspension?
Every state is different, so you'll want to check with your state's DMV about the license suspension laws in your area. Your license can be suspended for a number of reasons, including:
- A DUI/DWI conviction
- Too many speeding tickets or traffic violations
- Too many points on your driving record
- Reckless driving charges
- A lapse in car insurance coverage
- Failure to appear in court or pay fees
- Failure to pay child support
Penalties for Driving with a Suspended License
You may think hopping in the car for a quick trip to the store while your license is suspended is no biggie, but it’s riskier than you might realize! If you get pulled over by a law enforcement officer who discovers you’re driving with a suspended license, you’ll likely face more fines, and if you're in a car accident, the charge could escalate from a misdemeanor to felony. Driving with a suspended license is not worth the risk!
There is also a chance that your license could be revoked, which essentially voids your driver’s license. You won’t be able to reinstate it, no matter how long you wait. That means if you want to drive legally, you’ll have to start from square one and go through your state’s licensing process all over again – on top of paying any fines or penalties you owe. It can be an expensive, inconvenient, and time-consuming process.
How to Reinstate Your Suspended Driver's License
The driver’s license reinstatement process varies by state, the reason for suspension, and the type of suspension in place. You’ll need to check with your state's DMV for more specific information. Generally, however, you may need to:
- Wait the duration of the suspension
- Pay reinstatement fees
- Show proof of adequate auto insurance (and sometimes an SR22/FR44)
- Prove that you've completed required educational or substance abuse classes
- Pass a state driver's test
- Take care of any criminal charges that resulted in your driver’s license suspension
Can you get car insurance without a license?
Looking for car insurance but don’t have a driver’s license? You’re not alone: many unlicensed drivers own cars. For instance, a senior who no longer drives might decide not to renew their license but still own a car. That way, others can take them to shops, family gatherings, and similar places. After all, car insurance typically follows the car, not the driver.
However, the consequences of driving without car insurance will make you want to secure a policy—whether you’re behind the wheel or not. In fact, some states might not issue you a driver’s license until you show proof of insurance coverage.
Situations such as the one described above, where a car owner elects not to get or renew his or her driver’s license but still wishes to own a car, aren’t the only times the topic of auto insurance for unlicensed drivers might arise. Another situation is when people involuntarily lose their license following a traffic-related incident.
In such cases, car insurance is available where the car’s owner is not the primary driver.
- If the primary driver is a spouse, that person should be able to add the vehicle to their policy.
- If the primary driver is a child, the vehicle’s owner can get a policy that excludes them (the owner) from operating the vehicle but insures the child serving as the primary driver.
If you’re dealing with the ramifications of a driver’s license suspension, expect to hear about an SR22 or a policy certified for financial responsibility. And if you’re driving with a suspended license, stop! The consequences can be severe.
Driving Without Insurance: What You Need to Know
Every state requires drivers to carry proof of financial responsibility, which is typically done by purchasing an auto insurance policy. Driving without proof of financial responsibility is against the law no matter where you live, and you’ll face some kind of penalty if you are caught driving without car insurance. For more details (including what penalties you can expect, what happens if you cause an accident as an uninsured driver, and car insurance coverages that can protect you from uninsured drivers) check out this helpful article: What Happens If You Get Caught Driving Without Insurance.
At Direct Auto, we understand that a pristine driving record isn’t always possible. Life happens! That’s why we’re committed to helping you get the affordable car insurance coverage you need, regardless of your driving history.
If you’ve committed driving violations in the past that have led to a license suspension, SR22 requirements, or other penalty, we’re here for you. Call 1-877-GO-DIRECT (1-877-463-4732) or visit a Direct Auto location near you for a free quote or to learn more.
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