What Your Drivers 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 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Many drivers are surprised to learn that their license is no longer valid.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 for 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. Insurance companies 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
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, court proceedings, potential employers, and, of course, by 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. (Remember, you can order it through your state's DMV.) 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 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. A risky record can mean 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 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. Again, the penalties depend on where you are licensed to drive. Here’s a closer look at the rules for expired licenses in the states where Direct Auto operates.
Driving with an expired license in Alabama is illegal. However, there is a 60-day grace period following the expiration date to renew a license; during that time, the license is considered valid.
You are eligible to renew your Alabama driver’s license 180 days before its expiration date. License renewal in Alabama can be done online or in-person at a Driver License Office. If your license has been expired for more than three years, you will likely need to retake and pass a written examination and/or driving test.
In Arkansas, you have 31 days to renew your expired driver’s license. If your Arkansas driver’s license has been expired for more than 31 days, you may need to retake and pass a written test. An Arkansas driver’s license can be renewed in-person at a Driver Control Office.
A Florida driver’s license expires after eight years. You may be able to renew your Florida driver’s license up to 18 months prior to the expiration date. Renewals can be done online or in-person at a Driver License and Motor Vehicle Service Center.
A Georgia driver’s license can be renewed up to 150 days before its expiration date. If your license has been expired for more than two years, you will be required to retake and pass the road signs, road rules, and road skills tests and vision exam, plus additional tests to obtain a Class M, E, or F license. Georgia license renewal services are available online, in-person, by mail, or via the DDS 2 GO mobile app.
You will receive a notice from the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles (OMV) to renew your license around 100 days before your license is set to expire. Depending on your circumstances, you can renew your license online, by mail, or in-person at an Office of Motor Vehicles location.
Good to know: If you need to renew your Louisiana driver’s license, you must do so within 10 days of the license’s expiration date. A $15 late fee will apply if your license is more than 10 days expired.
In Mississippi, drivers over 18 are eligible to renew their license up to six months before the expiration date. After that, you can renew your license up to one year after the expiration date. Renewals made after the expiration date will receive a late fee surcharge of $1.
Driver’s licenses can be renewed online, by mail, or in-person at a driver’s license office. You may renew your Mississippi driver’s license online every other time you need to renew your license.
North Carolina drivers will receive a license renewal notice in the mail about 60 days before their license expires. You are eligible to renew your North Carolina driver’s license up to six months before it expires, and you may renew your license online up to two years after its expiration. After that, renewals must be made in-person at an NCDMV office.
Note: A North Carolina resident may renew their driver’s license by mail only once in their lifetime if they are temporarily living outside of the state for at least 30 consecutive days.
If your South Carolina driver’s license has been expired for less than nine months, you can renew it as if it weren’t expired. You can renew your South Carolina driver’s license online, by mail, or in-person at an SCDMV branch.
However, if your license is expired for nine months or more, you must visit an SCDMV branch to renew it in-person. You will be required to present correct documentation that proves your identity and pass a vision, knowledge, and skills test.
A Tennessee driver’s license is valid for eight years after its issue for drivers 21 years or older. If you’re driving with an expired Tennessee driver’s license, you’re subject to the same penalties as an unlicensed driver. You’ll receive a notice approximately eight to 10 weeks before your license’s expiration. You can renew a Tennessee driver’s license online, by mail, or at any driver service center, depending on the type of license you have.
Most Texas driver’s licenses can be renewed up to two years before and after expiration. You have the option to renew your Texas driver’s license online, by telephone, by mail, or in-person at a driver's license office.
If your Texas driver’s license has been expired for more than two years, it cannot be renewed. You must reapply for a license in-person at a driver license office and pass the knowledge and driving tests.
Virginia drivers will receive a renewal notice in advance of their license expiration. You can renew your Virginia driver’s license up to one year before your license’s expiration date. A Virginia driver’s license can be renewed online, by mail, or in-person at a DMV customer service center, DMV2GO, or DMV Connect location, depending on your eligibility.
If your license is expired for less than one year, you can usually renew your license without a problem. However, if your license has been expired for more than one year, you must retake and pass the vision screening, two-part knowledge exam, and road skills test.
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 does it 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
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
Driving Without Insurance: What You Need to Know
Every state requires drivers to carry auto insurance or some other form of financial responsibility, which can include a self-insurance certificate, bond, or other money deposit. Driving without insurance or 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.
What happens if you get caught driving without car insurance?
Getting caught driving without car insurance can lead to some serious consequences. Exact penalties vary by state, and can include:
- Driver's license suspension
- Vehicle registration suspension
- Monetary fines that range from $100 to $1,000
- Being required to file an SR22/FR44 for 3 to 5 years
- Vehicle impoundment
- Jail time
- Civil and criminal penalties if in an accident
On top of these fines and penalties, there is also the expense of an auto accident to consider. If you’re an uninsured driver, your finances could take a real hit if you’re involved in a car accident, especially if you are at-fault. Would you be able to pay for vehicle repairs out of your own wallet if you found yourself in this situation? What about costly medical bills for yourself or others involved in the accident?
Insurance verification systems
Many states have adopted online insurance verification systems that identify uninsured drivers by cross-referencing vehicle registration information and Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs). In some states, these systems allow law enforcement officers to immediately verify a vehicle’s insurance status during a traffic stop.
If a state’s insurance verification program cannot confirm coverage on a vehicle, the vehicle owner usually receives a notice in the mail with instructions to provide proof of insurance or face fines, suspensions, or other penalties.
Your best choice? Drive insured.
Adequate auto insurance coverage can help you drive legally and avoid the penalties for driving without insurance. Learn more about the auto insurance requirements and penalties for driving without insurance in your state by clicking one of the links below:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
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.