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In short, a typical traffic ticket stays on your record for approximately three years, potentially impacting your insurance rates and ability to drive. However, the actual amount of time a ticket will affect you depends on the record. There are three primary places in which a speeding ticket impacts you:
- The document your state maintains that keeps track of your driving history
- Your car insurance rates
- Your driving privileges
These each work a little differently, and they can all be impacted by the severity of the infraction, the number of tickets you've received recently and your state's laws.
How Long Does a Ticket Stay on Your DMV Record?
Once you've been convicted of a traffic violation, minor infractions such as speeding tickets or running a stop sign most commonly stay on your record for approximately three years, though the precise amount of time may vary by state. For example, in California, speeding tickets disappear after 39 months but in Virginia they last for five years. And some states maintain records of driving infractions forever.
Additionally, more serious driving convictions such as a DUI or reckless driving commonly stay on your record for far longer. For example, in New York, a driving while intoxicated conviction (DWI) will be listed on your driving record for 10 years, while in Florida it will be listed on your record for 75 years.
How Long Do License Points Impact Your Driving Privileges?
With regards to your eligibility to drive, your state's DMV may only consider citations or convictions (or points) accumulated within a more limited time frame. In the 41 states (plus Washington, D.C.) that use a point system to determine driving eligibility, points only impact your license suspension for a certain amount of time. For example, in New York, points impact your driving privileges for 18 months, while in Idaho they last for three years.
States that don't have point systems also typically have time limits for how long an infraction will impact your driving privileges, although the formulas are more complex. For example, in Minnesota, your license will be suspended if you have four traffic offenses in one year, or five offenses in two years. You're also likely to face more stringent requirements if you are a younger driver.
How to Reduce the Points on Your License
In many states, you can reduce the number of points on your license by taking a defensive driving course. Taking a defensive driving class usually doesn't actually reduce the number of points you have or completely clear your driving record. The class just keeps you from losing your license.
Completing a defensive driving course may also automatically reduce your car insurance premium. For example, in New York, a defensive driving class will reduce your insurance premium by 10% for three years.
Class structure and availability vary by state, but generally cover driving techniques, the times of day that are most and least safe to drive, and other driving-related statistics. Classes may be offered in person or online.
How Long a Ticket Will Affect Your Insurance Rates
In most cases, a traffic ticket will impact your insurance for three years. However, your rate increase will be highest in the beginning and will gradually decline over time. Additionally, more serious infractions like DUIs will have much more severe and longer-lasting consequences. Depending on the severity of the infraction and how recently it occurred, some insurance companies may not offer you coverage at all. In these cases, you may want to turn to a nonstandard insurer for coverage, as these companies specialize in providing insurance for people with imperfect driving histories.
What Doesn't Impact Your Insurance
Not all tickets impact your insurance rates, however. Insurers are usually only concerned with moving violations—infractions that occur while driving your car, such as speeding tickets or accidents. A parking ticket, for example, won't make your insurance go up. Additionally, any ticket that you had overturned, or expunged from your driving record, won't affect your rates—regardless of how long ago the incident occurred.