Yes, depending on the severity of your violations, many states will allow you to clean your driving record. In most areas, “points” on your driver’s license impact your record over a fixed period. For example, while a speeding ticket in Texas would stay on your record for three years, an identical violation would remain visible for 5 years in Kansas.
If local courts allow it, drivers can proactively clean their records through the following methods:
- Defensive Driving Courses
- Respond to “Fix It” Tickets
- Look Into Deferments
- Request Your Record To Be Expunged
- Drive Carefully
Notably, these strategies typically only apply to minor violations. DUIs and other major offenses can permanently affect your driving record, trigger long-term premium increases, and result in license suspensions.
Table of Contents
How Does Cleaning Your Driving Record Work?
Opportunities to clean your driving record will vary depending on state laws and the number and severity of violations you have accrued.
Who Can Clean Their Driving Record?
The most effective way to maintain a clean record is by driving safely and obeying local laws. However, almost anyone with minor violations on their record can wait for the affiliated points to expire by avoiding future infractions over 1 to 10 years. While dependent on state protocols, some drivers can even take more proactive measures to clear their name over an abbreviated period.
However, drivers with severe offenses or concerning patterns of minor citations may experience notable difficulty in clearing their names. For example, while most state DMVs show DUI arrests for 5 to 10 years, others include them on your driving record for the rest of your life.
What Kinds of Violations Can Be Removed?
Most minor violations only remain on your license over a fixed period. These can include:
- Moving violations: Citations assessed with the vehicle in motion, including tickets for speeding, running red lights, or cell phone use
- Mechanical violations: Tickets resulting from the operation of vehicles with faulty equipment, such as broken tail lights, defective brakes, and missing windshield wipers
- Miscellaneous violations: Typically apply to individuals driving without legally required paperwork or certification, such as unlicensed and uninsured drivers or vehicles with expired registration
Notably, unless they hire a lawyer who can negotiate a plea deal or clear charges, drivers with major offenses like DUIs, reckless driving, or hit-and-runs can rarely take active measures to have them removed.
What Does It Mean To Have “Points” On Your License?
Most states utilize point systems to track problem drivers. While protocols vary by location and the severity of each offense, traffic violations typically count for a fixed number of points that eventually fall off your record. For example, moving citations in Montana count for 2 points, whereas DUIs count for 10. Points on your license almost always lead to increased insurance premiums and can even result in suspended driving credentials.
How Can You Check Your Driving Record?
You can check your driving record by ordering a motor vehicle report (MVR) from your state’s DMV. Your MVR should highlight all recent criminal driving offenses, the points assigned to each, and how long they will remain on your record. For a small fee, customers can usually access their MVR online or by submitting a request at the nearest DMV office.
If you discover errors on your MVR, file a dispute with DMV. While processes and waiting periods vary by location, disputes typically require drivers to fill out a simple form, answer questions about their vehicle and driving certifications, and explain the information discrepancies that need amending.
How Do Violations Impact the Cost Of Insurance?
While insurance companies follow independent points systems, they can still significantly increase customer premiums based on recent DMV information. Standard annual rate increases include:
Type of Violation
Average Increase In Insurance Rates
$408 (1-5 MPH over the limit) to $649 (20-25 MPH over the limit)
Red Light Ticket
Hit and Run
When calculating their premiums, companies always consider a driver’s risk of filing costly insurance claims. Therefore, severe infractions like DUIs and reckless driving always significantly impact rates. While some minor violations like seatbelt tickets only marginally affect insurance costs, repeat offenses that insinuate problematic driving patterns can incur heavier penalties.
How To Clean Your Driving Record
In some states, drivers can clean their records by taking defensive driving courses, filing for deferments, quickly responding to “fix it” tickets, or requesting the expungement of eligible citations.
Defensive Driving Courses
Many states will subtract license points for individuals who participate in approved defensive driving courses. These classes teach safe road habits and practices, such as leaving adequate space between nearby motorists and practical road scanning techniques. Enrollees will also learn how to manage emotional tendencies, such as stress, fatigue, or road rage, that can lead to irrational behavior behind the wheel.
Unlike traffic schools, which provide a general refresher curriculum, defensive classes teach advanced driving skills and focus on accident avoidance. With court approval, taking a defensive driving class following a minor violation can result in dropped points and lessened criminal charges. Even drivers with clean records can occasionally secure insurance discounts by completing a verified program.
Respond to “Fix It” Tickets
“Fix it” tickets usually apply to any citation received for a minor mechanical issue, illegal vehicle modification, or insufficient driving credentials. Examples include:
- Broken tail lights
- Missing windshield wipers
- Faulty brakes
- Expired registration
- Missing front license plate
- Illegally tinted windows
By providing proof of repair, replacement, or updated paperwork with the DMV before a court-imposed deadline, drivers can remove these citations and the affiliated points and fines from their records. Regardless of “fix it” opportunities, it always favors offenders to amend these issues immediately to guarantee safe driving and prevention of repeat violations.
Look Into Deferments
Depending on the severity of your offense, some courts may allow you to pay a small fee to defer charges before they impact your driving record. To successfully avoid accruing points, you must drive safely and avoid incurring additional violations during the deferment window, which will typically last one year at minimum. If you fail to meet these requirements, your original and subsequent violations will both count toward your DMV record.
Notably, not all states offer driver deferment programs. Even states that allow diversion typically limit this leniency to individuals who have received citations for minor violations on otherwise clean driving records. People cited while driving intoxicated, attempting to flee an accident scene, or operating commercial vehicles typically cannot access state deferment programs.
Request Your Record To Be Expunged
Having your driving record expunged requires the DMV to permanently seal applicable charges from public inspection, limiting their impact on insurance rates and future criminal cases. Each state imposes various restrictions on record expungement and will only allow for the erasure of specific violations.
For example, the California DMV will automatically expunge minor infractions for individuals without previous DUI convictions after three years of clean driving. Meanwhile, other states require drivers to apply for manual expungement, wherein an official panel would review each eligible infraction for removal. Notably, most states will not expunge DUIs, vehicular assault, reckless driving, and other severe offenses from a driver’s record.
Most states inhibit individuals from retroactively clearing severe violations like DUIs from their driving records. Furthermore, some local governments will not even allow drivers to defer charges on minor moving or mechanical violations. Therefore, the only surefire way of keeping your record clean is through safe and informed driving habits.
Drunk driving accounts for 31% of all traffic fatalities. Meanwhile, another 29% of road-related deaths involve one or more people driving over the speed limit. Because insurance companies calculate costs based on their risk of paying claims, DMV records that insinuate dangerous behavior always result in higher premiums. For example, while a DUI in California can increase auto insurance rates by nearly 180%, violation-free individuals often have eligibility for “safe driver” premium discounts.
Can You Fight The Ticket In Court?
You can fight traffic tickets in court by attributing a justifiable reason for breaking the law. For example, suppose you got a speeding ticket en route to the emergency room or ran a red light to avoid an accident. In either case, a judge might file to remove points from your record. However, contrary to popular legend, judges can still uphold traffic cases even if the citing officer fails to attend proceedings.
While lawyers can help negotiate related penalties, severe criminal violations will rarely see complete removal from your record. Furthermore, even fighting minor tickets requires multiple court appearances and expensive representation. Therefore, legal defense only proves worth the time and effort for individuals with a clear-cut justification for their actions.
What If You Cannot Clean Your Driving Record?
If you cannot proactively clean your driving record, you must wait until the affiliated points expire. In some areas, minor violations like seatbelt tickets can disappear in as little as one year. However, major criminal infractions like DUIs occasionally last indefinitely.
For example, a speeding ticket in California will remain on your driving record for 3 to 7 years. Conversely, points from similar violations in Arizona may expire after one year of safe driving.
Insurance companies may also have limited or expanded access to specific state DMV records. For example, while California residents with 10-year-old infractions will no longer pay increased insurance rates, an Arizona driver with a clean record might still pay higher premiums for infractions dropped years prior.
Putting It All Together
Depending on your state and the severity of your traffic violations, points on your record can increase auto insurance premiums and occasionally result in a suspended license. While not all local courts allow it, some people can defer charges, enroll in defensive driving courses, and take similar actions to clean minor offenses from their driving records.
To fully understand your situation, request an MVR from your state DMV and ask your insurance company when they will stop factoring the listed offenses into your monthly premiums. Even so, remember that the only surefire way to maintain a clean driving record and low insurance rates is by routinely driving safely and obeying the law.