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Driving records and auto insurance rates

The motor vehicles department in most states of the US has a special system using «points» that is applied to evaluate your driving record. Every time you are involved in a driving infraction (traffic violations, parking violations, accidents, drunken driving, etc.) you're assigned with a certain amount of points. If the authorities prove that you are guilty in these cases, your driving record is summed with the appropriate point amount. The higher the point count, the worse your driving record is considered to be.

Usually when you apply for an auto insurance policy with a certain company, the insurer has the right to check your driving record within the state department.

There are two reasons for doing so:  

  1. To see if you meet the company's insurance standards (that affects the overall possibility of getting a policy at all)

  2. To see how much risk do you pose for the insurance company (that affects the total cost of your policy)
But don't expect the point from the driving record to be automatically transferred to the insurer's evaluation of your riskiness. Typically, insurance companies have their own charts and points for determining your risk factor, and they usually vary from one company to another.

Depending on the state you're registered in, the insurer usually has the right to check your driving record at any point of time. But don't expect insurance companies to run daily checks, because this procedure requires serious resources for frequent reviews. However, there are moments when you can be quite sure that your insurer will check your driving record. These moments are:   

     
  • When applying for a policy in the first place

  • When requesting your policy to be changed (modifying coverage amounts, etc.)

  • When adding or changing the vehicle included in your policy

  • When renewing your insurance policy
In case the review of the record provides negative information on your driving history, expect that your insurance rates are likely to be raised. Insurance companies usually have their own system of points to set the exact amount by which the rates will be increased. Different insurance companies exercise different systems, however they are typically based on the Safe Driver Insurance Plan, issued by the Insurance Services Office (ISO).

The Safe Driver Insurance Plan includes all types of traffic accidents and uses a certain point value (from 0 to 4) to evaluate the accident according to its severity. According to the plan, the higher your score is in points the higher your insurance rates are. And the number of points you're «rewarded» with is typically proportional to the increase in insurance rates.

One way to improve your driving record (and lower your insurance premiums) is applying for a Defensive Driving Course. Quite often you can be imposed to take such s course in court after a serious accident or traffic rule violation. These courses teach how to drive safer and avoid accidents, as well as some useful tips on behavior both in the car and outside it. When you complete the course a certificate is issued and most insurance companies provide discounts for those who have such certificates. You can get auto insurance quotes with and without such courses to see how the rates differ. There are plenty of courses available to apply online, or you can check with your DVM.