Civil Traffic Violations
- Speeding Tickets
- Traffic Violations
- Driving Without a License
- License Suspensions
- Traffic Light Violations
- And More
Driving records have gone hand-in-hand with the development and proliferation of automobiles. When an individual is of age for a driver's license, records start tracking his completion of driving tests as well as any infractions for disobeying speed limits, careful operation of a vehicle, and accidents. These records are kept for the driver's lifetime and may provide information for legal proceedings.
An individual's driving record follows him from state to state because it is a legal document – a timeline of decisions and choices that has wider implications than the cost of car insurance.
Although the name alone would lead one to believe that driving records reflect only on a person's ability to follow the rules of the road, a bad driving record can have serious consequences that reach further into one's life. A poor driving record can hamper your ability to pursue your goals in many ways.
Most states now have systems that tally poor driving or inability to follow driving laws through a "points" rating that penalizes poor driving by financial and legal means. This is how it works: driving infractions can add "points" to one's driving record, which in turn drive up the cost of auto insurance and makes future traffic tickets more expensive as well. If a driver accumulates too many points over time future traffic tickets may be charged as felonies (particularly DUI offenses) or he may lose his license for a period of time. In addition, points can be added to one's license as a result of out-of-state tickets as well. Points disappear after several years (generally 3-5 years after the infraction) or may be reduced by taking a safe driving class.
For instance, Florida adds three points to a driver's record when he is stopped for littering or speeding up to 15 mph over the speed limit. Additional points may be added if a police officer observes a child not in a safety seat or an open bottle of alcohol in the car. More points are applied to a driver's record if he passes a school bus illegally, leaves the scene of an accident, or crashed while speeding. Florida suspends driver's licenses for a month when 12 or more points are accrued within a year, and suspends a driver's license for 90 days when 18 or more points are accrued within a year. Points may also add up to a driver being labeled a Habitual Traffic Offender, which generally means future traffic violations will hold higher consequences and higher penalties.
The first traffic ticket was allegedly given to a man in Dayton, Ohio for driving a car over the 12 mile per hour speed limit. Another police officer in New York City claimed to be the first to reprimand a driver for the same offense (the police officer allegedly caught up with the car while riding his bike) – but since the violation was not written in ticket form it's difficult to confirm the claim.
Connecticut and Massachusetts were the first states to require drivers to buy insurance in the mid-1920s. Most other states did not follow until the 1950s. Auto insurance compounds the importance of driving records because drivers are judged on their past habits, linking one's premium to how safe and law-compliant a driver is.
Beyond one's ability to operate a motor vehicle which is crucial to survival in a sprawling suburban existence, a poor driving record can have negative implications on one's life in general.
Along with accruing points on one's license and paying higher auto insurance as a result, a bad driving record can impact one's ability to obtain and the rate paid for life insurance, it can negatively impact one's credit rating (particularly if any traffic violations are outstanding or unpaid), and felony-level traffic violations can result in jail time, loss of voting rights, qualifying for loans, and restricted travel, among other things.
A law called the Driver's Privacy Protection Act attempts to shield individuals from those who seek to profit from driving records. Courts have blocked attorneys from soliciting clients according to their driving records, and some have sought to keep vehicle "black box" data recorders from being used against drivers.