Speeding, rolling stops and texting behind the wheel are just some of the infractions that can lead to traffic tickets, costing you time, money and your good driving record. Your traffic ticket will leave a blemish on your record for years to come, but the length of time depends on the severity of the violation. Drivers have options to reduce or remove the effects of a traffic ticket; however, expungement or successfully fighting a conviction in traffic court is the only way to actually remove a ticket from your record.
Record vs. Rate Hike
A motor vehicle record is different from your auto insurance record. The time frame for which your traffic ticket will affect your insurance rates depends on the severity of the violation and the insurance company. Likewise, the length of time a tickets stays on your motor vehicle record depends on the violation and can vary by state. States can also regulate the length of time an insurance company penalizes you for tickets, but the amount of time you will pay the price for bad driving depends mostly on the violation.
On the Record
As a licensed driver, you have a motor vehicle record with your state that is public and maintained by your state's motor vehicle authority, such as a department or bureau of motor vehicles – DMV or BMV. A record can go back as little as three years, depending on your state. In addition to your basic identifying information and license privileges, your record reflects any violation, convictions, traffic and speeding tickets. It also shows collisions and penalties, such as points, fines, license suspensions and revocations. Your insurance company depends on the information in your motor vehicle record to determine your risk level and your premiums.
Chargeable Periods and Surcharges
The amount of time a ticket impacts insurance rates is known as the chargeable period. The rate-hike penalty is often referred to as a surcharge. Chargeable periods vary minimally by state; they depend more on the type of traffic offense, and the period may begin either on the date of offense or conviction, depending on state regulation. For example, the most common chargeable period for minor offenses, speeding or illegal cellphone use is three years; however, a DUI is much longer, at 10 years. Not all insurance companies impose a surcharge for tickets. Also, some states, such as Pennsylvania, prohibit surcharges for minor moving violations. Some companies also lower the surcharge with each year that passes.
Points and Penalties
Some states use a point system to track reckless or dangerous driving. The motor vehicle authority as well as the public can access your motor vehicle record and find out how many points you have. This system helps authorities and insurers determine license suspension, revocation and insurance eligibility. For example, in California, a traffic ticket can result in one or two points added to your record. Running a red light and speeding merit one point, whereas driving under the influence or a hit-and-run results in two points. Illegal turns and speeding stay on a California driving record for three years and three months – 39 months, but a DUI stays on for 13 years.
Your traffic ticket will leave a blemish on your record for years to come, but the length of time depends on the severity of the violation.