How Long Does a Ticket Stay on Your Driving Record?

Traffic violations can have short- and long-term consequences

A driver gets a traffic ticket.

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Getting a traffic ticket can be a costly nuisance, but depending on what it was for, it may have repercussions even after it’s paid.

For example, a young man who is a new driver gets caught on his cellphone while driving. Getting points added to his license when his insurance premium is already high can make owning a car financially challenging. In addition, having violations on your record will prevent you from qualifying for future safe-driver discounts or, even worse, it can cause an auto insurer to drop you completely. Plus, if you reach a certain number of points within a set period of time, you can have your license suspended.

Key Takeaways

  • Traffic tickets have both short- and long-term impacts on your driving record.
  • Traffic violations can cause your insurance premium to increase, but how much (and for how long) depends on where you live, your carrier, and the type of infraction.
  • You can sometimes reduce the impact on your driving record and improve your insurance costs by taking driver’s classes or negotiating in court.

So how long does a ticket stay on your record? Learn more about how different types of traffic tickets impact your driving record, insurance premiums, and wallet.

How Long Does a Violation Stay on Your Record?

Getting a traffic ticket can bump up your car insurance rates, but how long you’ll be stuck paying more will hinge on three main factors: where you live, the insurance carrier, and the type of violation you committed.

Your State

Most states use a points system for traffic violations, where each type of incident has an assigned number of points. In most cases, points will remain on your record for two to three years from the date you commit the offense, but this varies.

In New York, for example, you get five points for improper cellphone use, three points for improper passing, and two points for failure to signal. And while these types of points expire after 18 months, they remain on your record up to four years.

For more serious violations, your driving record can be impacted for a longer period, even permanently, or result in the suspension of your driving license. For example, in Virginia, a DUI offense remains on your record for 11 years while an alcohol-related conviction in Washington state will stay on your record indefinitely.

Here are examples of how long minor traffic violations stay on your record in different states:

  • California: 3 years
  • Montana: 3 years
  • Ohio: 3 years
  • Virginia: 2 years
  • Washington: 3 years

Note that in some states, such as Montana, driving records are permanent, although points for infractions expire. In Virginia, points expire after two years while traffic convictions remain on your record for various lengths of time, depending on the severity of the infraction. In Washington, convictions remain on your record for varying lengths of time, but for driving records shared with insurance companies, convictions remain for three years.


If you get a ticket in another state, it will likely be reported to your home state. It may or may not end up on your driving record, but you will be responsible to pay the fine.

Your Insurance Company

Insurance companies have their own methodologies for assessing risk and assigning points to different types of traffic infractions and accidents. These algorithms determine your eligibility and your premium.

On the positive side, many carriers provide a good-driver discount if you maintain a clean driving record with no violations for a specified number of years. Although auto insurers can access your entire driving history, they typically only go back five years when it comes to adding surcharges for violations.

Read your insurance policy's declarations page for details on how prior accidents and violations are treated and how they impact your premium.

Type of Violation

The type of traffic violation you receive can affect how long your carrier will keep your premium higher. In general, the more serious the offense, the more (and the longer) you’ll pay higher rates. Careless driving and driving under the influence are examples of serious violations, whereas failure to put on your turn signal would be something minor.


It could take several years for points to clear from your driving record—up to 10 years for major offenses such as driving under the influence.

Personal Driving History

Your driving record—specifically if you’ve had any other violations in the last couple of years—can also trigger increases. For example, if you’re someone who has a 20-year, clean driving record and you get your first ticket, your insurer might not look to raise your rates. But if you’re newly insured, in a high-risk group, or it’s, for example, your second speeding ticket in six months, there’s a greater chance you will be penalized.

Insurance Impacts From Traffic Violations

Different types of traffic citations can impact insurance rates and coverage at varying levels. One study found that overall, a single prior traffic offense can bump up your insurance premium by 35%.

Should that happen, it doesn’t mean those consequences last forever. In Massachusetts, for example, an insurance company cannot go more than six years into your driving history, and may only increase your premium for traffic violations within five years of your policy date. And most of the major auto insurers advertise good-driver discounts if you have a clean driving record for a specified number of years.

Moving Violations

Minor offenses such as speeding tickets (that aren’t too egregious), missing a stop sign, or distracted driving could send up a red flag to your insurance carrier, especially if it’s not your first ticket. However, Progressive reports that even customers who received their first speeding ticket in three years ended up paying 15% more on average for a six-month policy. In other words, it really depends on the carrier and the state.

Major Violations and Felonies

For major motoring mess-ups, there could be bigger consequences, like difficulty finding an auto insurer to cover you at all. In Michigan, for example, insurance companies are legally allowed to deny you coverage if in the last three years you’ve been found guilty of a felony with a motor vehicle, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, failing to stop at the scene of an accident, or reckless driving.

Average Traffic Violation Penalties

If, and by how much, an insurer decides to raise your rates after a traffic violation depends on a number of factors, including your driving record, the seriousness of the infraction, and the insurance company.

Here’s a look at some national average increases, as researched by online insurance broker The Zebra, to give you an idea:

Offense Average Premium Increase 
Hit and run 82%
DUI  74%
Passing a school bus  27%
Red-light infraction 23%
Speeding in a school zone 21%

Where you live also has a big impact. For example, the same study found that reckless driving increased California drivers’ premiums by 181% on average, but that same violation resulted in just a 61% increase in Nebraska.

How To Save on Insurance After a Ticket

Three are some proactive steps you can take to reduce your demerit points and show your insurance company that you’re committed to safe driving. Taking action could help you reduce your premiums sooner.

Take a Defensive Driving Course

Most states encourage drivers to take a defensive driving course or motor vehicle accident prevention course, and offer a car insurance discount incentive. In New York, for example, completing a defensive driving course results in 10% off your auto insurance premium for three years.

Similarly, if you commit a minor moving violation, some states, such as California, may give you the opportunity to attend traffic school to have the ticket “masked” on your motor vehicle record (after it’s paid).

Explore Discounts

Many auto insurance companies have various ways to get discounts. Popular ones include a safe driving record, completing a defensive driving course or, for younger drivers, good-student discounts. You can also find out if there are lower premiums if you are a member of AARP, or if you are in the military or a first responder.

If you have other types of insurance on your home or apartment, you can see if bundling your coverage with the same insurer can save you money.

Violation and Accident Forgiveness Programs

Some auto insurers have introduced programs such as accident forgiveness. While you usually pay a bit more for this coverage, it prevents you from getting a larger rate increase should you have a minor traffic violation or accident.

The Bottom Line

Traffic tickets can have both a short-term and a long-term impact on your driving record and your budget. Your best course of action is to drive safely and cautiously.

If you do get ticketed, look into ways to reduce your demerit points, such as traffic school or defensive driving classes. That may not only make you a better driver, but it might alleviate some of the financial impact on your insurance premiums.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you pay off a traffic ticket?

You can usually pay traffic tickets online or by mail before your appointed court date. This means you are pleading guilty and taking care of your obligation. If you decide you want to fight the ticket or negotiate for a lower rate, or have the ticket removed from your record, then you have to appear in court.

How do you fight a traffic ticket without going to court?

In most cases, you have to appear in person if you wish to plead not guilty and fight a traffic ticket.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. New York Department of Motor Vehicles. “About the New York State Driver Point System.”

  2. New York Department of Motor Vehicles. “About Point Reduction.”

  3. Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. “6 Point Violations.”

  4. Washington State Department of Licensing. “Frequently Asked Questions: Driving Records.”

  5. California Department of Motor Vehicles. “Retention of Driver Record Information.”

  6. Montana Department of Justice. “Driving Records.”

  7. Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles. “BMV Records.” Click on "Driver Abstract Account."

  8. Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. “Moving Violations and Points Assessments.”

  9. Progressive. “Do Speeding and Parking Tickets Affect Insurance?

  10. Insurify. “What Factors Determine How Much You Pay for Car Insurance?

  11. Massachusetts Department of Insurance. “Basics of Auto Insurance.”

  12. Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services. “Michigan’s Auto Insurance Law Has Changed.”

  13. The Zebra. “How 26 Common Traffic Tickets Raise the Price You Pay for Car Insurance.”

  14. State of Virginia: Virginia’s Judicial System. “How To Pay Traffic Tickets and Other Offenses—General District Court.”

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