What is a Motor Vehicle Record?
Your motor vehicle report (MVR) details your driving history, including driver’s license information and traffic violations. It may also include personal identifiers, such as age, date of birth, hair and eye color, gender, weight, and height.
Law enforcement personnel, court officers, auto insurance companies, and potential employers may request a motor vehicle record check. The report will show past and current driver’s license status, including any suspensions, revocations, or cancellations. It also details the license class, and any endorsements or restrictions.
In addition to driver’s license data, the report will also list any traffic violations over a set period, usually the past three to five years. The listed offenses may include, but are not limited to:
- Traffic citations
- Accident Reports
- Driving Record Points
- DUI Convictions
- Vehicular crimes
Motor Vehicle Record Points
Points assessed against your driver’s license affect it negatively. Since they indicate traffic violations, insurance companies charge higher rates for high-risk drivers. If enough points accrue over a specific number of years, your license may be suspended or revoked.
How Points Are Calculated
Each traffic violation is assigned a specific value based on how serious it is. For example, failing to use a turn signal properly will usually cost fewer points than excessive speeding. Some states assess points against anyone involved in a traffic accident, regardless of fault.
Most states calculate points based on one of two systems.
In System A, each regular moving violation equals one point, but excessive speeding violations count as two points. A driver’s license is suspended when he or she accrues four points in one year, six in two years, or eight in three years.
In System B, minor moving violations like illegal turns or slight speeding are assessed two points each. More serious violations like running a red light or excessive speeding can result in three to five points levied against the driver’s license. The license is suspended when a driver reaches 12 points over a 3-year period.
MVR Points and Insurance
Insurance companies use points to assess their risk in insuring you. The more points you have, the higher your premiums are. Some insurance companies may refuse to insure high-risk drivers.
Generally speaking, insurance companies will check your record over the past five years, though this time frame may vary by state. Points typically drop off after three years, but more serious infractions such as DUIs stay on for up to ten years. However, insurers only check a specific time frame, so they may not see older violations.
Keeping Your Motor Vehicle Record Clean
The best method for keeping your record spotless is to practice safe driving habits. Drive defensively, observe the speed limit and obey traffic laws. However, it is also a good idea to track your points and use legal methods to prevent or remove points on your record.
In most states, attending traffic school will wipe out a moving violation on your MVR. Some states allow you to take advantage of this opportunity once each year, while others require an 18-24 month waiting period before you may expunge a new ticket.
If you can, take advantage of traffic school. It is virtually guaranteed to remove points from your record, and most courses are only six to eight hours long. Some states also allow online attendance.
If you are ineligible for traffic school, it can be worth the effort required to contest the ticket. If you can prove a reasonable explanation for the violation, the judge may dismiss it. For example, if overgrown trees hid a stop sign, you may be excused for running it. Take pictures to show the court as proof of your claim. Other valid reasons for dismissing moving violations include emergency situations or a subjective decision by an officer who didn’t have a clear view of what took place.
Requesting a Motor Vehicle Record Check
Determining where to go to get a copy of your MVR depends on the licensing agency in your state. You may need to contact the Department of Revenue (DOR), Secretary of State, Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), Department of Public Safety (DPS), or Motor Vehicle Division (MVD).
Motor Vehicle Records can be obtained as either a certified or noncertified copy. Certified copies may be necessary for providing records to a court or insurance agency. If you are simply checking your driving record, you won’t need a certified copy.
A small fee is charged for each copy. Avoid websites that offer free driving record checks, since they provide limited information and then attempt to charge you excessive amounts for the full record.