Is your driving record less than stellar? Well, you’re not alone. In the United States, approximately 30 billion tickets for moving violations are issued each year. It can be tough to clean up your driving record particularly if it contains serious violations such as driving under the influence (DUI) or a hit-and-run accident. In many instances though, there are steps you can take that may make your driving record a lot more palatable.
Check with your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) periodically to see what convictions or citations it contains and to make sure the driving record is accurate and current. In most instances, you can get the driving record from the DMV office, in person or in writing. In some states you can do this on the Internet.
Know that all states offer driver improvement programs, defensive driver programs or traffic schools that you can attend in person or on the Internet. If you complete the coursework and pass required tests, points will be taken off your driving record or, if applicable, you may be able to avoid having your license suspended. Before enrolling in one of these programs, make sure it is court-approved and will be recognized in your case.
Consider that if you believe you have just grounds for fighting a ticket, you can plead “not guilty” and either hire an attorney to represent you or defend yourself. If you choose the latter, check the details of the law you’ve been charged with breaking. Take notes about the incident. And be thoroughly prepared before the court date. If an obstructed view had a role in your citation, take photos and a diagram of the road to court. If you’ve swerved to avoid a pedestrian, bicyclist or out-of-control vehicle, you may beat the ticket. Again, provide the court with a diagram and witnesses, if possible. Check the police report. If it’s inaccurate or false, you may have grounds for dismissal of the case. If you’re very lucky, and the officer who issued the ticket doesn’t appear, the case may be dismissed.
Be aware that the following are not acceptable excuses for violating the rules of the road: “But I didn’t know the law.” “Other drivers were going even faster.” “I’m late to work.” “But everyone does it.”
Be aware that if you are able to clean up your driving record with the DMV, it’s likely that the information is still available on a plethora of databases. An attorney or companies (see Resources) will contact these data services and see that they’re updated to reflect your new and improved driving record.
Slow down, drive safely and keep your record clean. Many states reduce points from your record for good driving behavior over time. A bad driving record makes you more than a member of a large club. It’s likely you’ll pay significantly higher auto insurance rates. Fines for infractions and annual surcharges for drivers who have accumulated excessive penalty points can take a deep gouge out of your bank account. Prospective employers and other transportation licensing bodies can access your driving record. And having your license suspended can negatively impact your job and lifestyle. If you have reasonable grounds to fight a ticket, you may come out ahead by taking your case to the court.