How to Become a Good Driver in Your State

It can be nerve-wracking to drive today; for example, in 2019 — there were over 276 million vehicles on U.S. roads — but by driving with extra caution, you can not only protect you and your family but stand to save on your car insurance.

In this article

    So, you think you can drive?

    A study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institution shows that driver-related issues cause nearly 90% of all crashes. Your crash risk is also highest during the first year that you have your license. 

    [ Read: The Best Cheap Car Insurance Companies for 2020 ] 

    Research also shows that texting while driving increases your risk of a crash by 23 times, and while 48 out of 50 states ban texting while driving, just 22 ban drivers from handheld phone use. Reports for 2016 show that there were nearly 6.3 million motor vehicle crashes reported by U.S. police. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, this official number doesn’t count 10 million crashes that go unreported each year.

    Now, take a look at your driving record 

    Good driving habits can reward you with better auto insurance rates, but companies will still want proof of your driving skills. That’s why they request a copy of your motor vehicle record, or MVR, that serves as a public detailing of your driving history. 

    “The insurance industry defines a risky driver versus a cautious driver through a driver’s history of tickets, claims, and accidents,” says Nestor Solari, CEO of Sigo, a bilingual, mobile-first auto insurance agency 

    “Your record will also show how long you’ve had insurance for, which will lead to higher rates if you haven’t had consistent insurance for 2-3 years.” If insurance providers see a driving record full of accidents and violations, they are not likely to bet their money on you. For the sake of your bank account, it benefits you to drive more safely so you can pay less on that insurance premium each month.

    Items found on your driving record 

    Your driving record is like a cheat sheet to your driving history, including important details such as these:

    Good Driving RecordBad Driving Record
    No tickets
    No moving violations
    Defensive driving classes completion
    DUI/DWI convictions
    Fees and citations owed
    License points
    Traffic accidents
    Moving violation convictions and fines

    Driving point system 

    To keep track of violations, most states use a points system. For example, while reckless speeding may be worth several points, that same state may consider a lesser violation as only worth a single point or none at all.

    “Some insurers, for example, will choose not to insure someone who has more than 10 points, with accidents being 8 points and tickets 2 points. The point threshold varies per carrier,” explains Solari. In many of these states, once your points reach a certain number, you face additional consequences, such as financial penalties and suspension of your license.

    Behaviors on the road can affect your insurance rate 

    By looking at your driving record, auto insurance companies can glean a better picture of who you are as a driver. Most infractions remain on your MVR for about three to five years, affecting your monthly budget long after the fine has been paid and mailed off for processing. When looking at your MVR, insurers will specifically search for these high-risk behaviors.

    • Reckless driving: Reckless driving is considered unsafe driving that endangers yourself and those around you. It is regarded as a misdemeanor criminal offense.
    • Speeding: Violations that involve speeding are classified as moving violations and can result in points on your record. 
    • DUI: Driving under the influence, or DUI, is a severe offense that will remain on your record for ten years in many states. It can also result in criminal charges and loss of your license. 
      DWI: A DWI, or driving while intoxicated, is treated similarly to the DUI, often remaining on your MVR for several years and impacts your ability to drive and obtain car insurance.

    If you have had a lot of trouble on the road, it’s understandable that an insurer will presume you to be an expensive party to ensure in the future. 

    “It’s important to keep in mind that insurance companies do not get to know you personally, and they cannot be with you to guide your driving habits after they issue you a policy,” says Simeone. “Your past record behind the wheel is probably the best indicator available to them of how well you will drive in the future.”

    Driving laws across the country

    These are some new driving laws that came into effect across the country in 2020.

    1. Arkansas: Drivers must submit insurance information to the Arkansas Department of Transportation so officers can have real-time access. 
    2. Florida: There are no handheld devices behind the wheel in school or construction zones.
    3. North Carolina: Drivers must replace their license plates every seven years.
    4. Ohio: Drivers are no longer required to display a front license plate.
    5. California: Motorized scooters require a Class M2 license or permit. (It’s also illegal to sell off your DMV appointment, in case you were interested.)
    6. Alabama: Drivers must either show proof of insurance when pulled over or submit proof within thirty days.
    7. Connecticut: Driver’s licenses will now expire every eight years instead of six. 
    8. Kansas: A vision test is now mandatory to renew your license.

    Driving record information by state 

    *We collected information from states with stark point system differences to show the importance of checking your own state’s point system to understand how it can affect your driving record.

    How do I know if I’m a high-risk driver? 

    To find out if you are a high-risk driver, check your driver’s record. You may have some points that you forgot about, or there could be a mistake that is impacting your insurance premium without you even realizing it. Obtaining a copy of your MVR is easy; you simply make an official request with the appropriate Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for your state.

    [ Read: Average Car Insurance Rates and the Costs of Tickets

    Filing requirements vary from state to state, but you typically can complete a request in person, online or via mail. If you are considered high-risk, your state DMV can help you purchase SR-22 insurance — or non-owner car insurance — which may be required if you have too many points or a more serious offense on your record.

    How insurance companies can help you 

    The rise of insurance mobile apps and technologies allows drivers to track their driving behavior and consequently save money with every mile they drive. “If you are a particularly cautious driver, opting into your insurance company’s telematics program or finding a company that will use your safe driving behavior in their analysis is a smart move to save money,” says Solari. Geico, State Farm and Progressive are all examples of car insurance providers who offer additional discounts for safe driving. 

    • GEICO DriveEasy: By downloading the app, you can save up to 25% off your insurance bill with this new program designed to track your driving.
    • State Farm Drive Safe & Save: You can earn up to 30% off your policy by connecting the app to your Bluetooth, so State Farm can reward you for your good driving habits.
    • Progressive Snapshot: Progressive gives you savings of up to $145 a month with usage-based insurance that comes with a heap of extra discounts. 

    “Slowing down and avoiding the potential of getting speeding tickets will reduce the likelihood of auto accidents,” says Espenschied. After all, he says, “Safe drivers are better drivers, and insurance companies will reward you with a lower insurance premium.” 

    We welcome your feedback on this article.Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

    Image Credit: nadia_bormotova/Getty Images

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    Lena Borrelli

    Contributing Writer

    Lena Borrelli is a Tampa-based freelance writer who has worked with leading industry titans, such as Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, and Simon Corporation. Her work has most recently been published on sites like TIME, ADT, Fiscal Tiger, Bankrate and Home Advisor, as well as many other websites and blogs around the world.

    Reviewed by

    • Andrea Perez
      Andrea Perez
      Personal Finance Editor

      Andrea Perez is an editor at The Simple Dollar specializing in personal finance. Prior to that she specialized in digital marketing content for online learning websites. She holds a master’s degree in journalism and media studies from the University of South Florida.