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Driving Records: How Far Back Do Insurance Companies Go?

When it comes to driving, having a perfect record isn’t always possible. Unfortunately, a violation on your driving record can cost you. Whether you’ve been with one standard insurance provider for years or are currently in the process of switching, you may want to know how your driving record will affect your monthly premiums. 

One aspect of auto insurance pricing that always stands is a driver’s history behind the wheel. In fact, it may be one of the most crucial factors in determining the overall cost of your policy. Along with your demographic profile and credit history, there is no factor that bears more influence on price. Just how far back do insurance companies check driving records? Farther back than you might think. 

How Far Back?

While applying for a car insurance policy, your past can very well come back to haunt you. Most car insurance companies will check your driving record for the past five years. This is known as the “lookback” period. Some states can have a longer or shorter lookback period. For example, Massachusetts grants auto insurance companies the right to look back at 10 years of driving records. In contrast, drivers in Virginia and Washington are only subjected to a three-year lookback period. Shorter time frames exist to reward a quick change in negative driving behavior. 

Insurance companies will check your driving records when you apply for or renew your auto insurance policy. At this point, the company seeks to evaluate your risk level and how likely you are as a driver to cost them money through claims. Even if your driving habits have changed over the course of several years, you might still be seen as a risk if you have any accident reports or minor driving violations on your record. 

What Counts As A Driving Violation?

Of course, a bad driving record consists of more than just accident claims. It also holds the record of both major and minor driving violations. As insurance companies calculate risk, they look at the picture that your record paints of you as a motorist on the road. 

Minor driving violations include failure to stop, improper turns, following too closely, speeding, etc. What do these things say to a potential insurer? They tell of an inability to obey traffic laws. Since these laws are designed to prevent accidents they are often seen as quite serious when calculating your likelihood of filing an accident claim. Luckily, most states will only include minor violations on a driving record for three years. 

Major traffic violations are those that are quite serious in nature. They include speeding (at least 20 mph over the legal limit), driving under the influence, at-fault accidents, fleeing the scene of an accident, and vehicular manslaughter. These offenses stay on your driving record for far longer. In a few states, causing an accident while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can stay on your record for 75 years.

How Is Your Driving Record Used?

Insurance companies use your driving record to paint a picture of how you behave behind the wheel. This is the best way to assess an applicant and the frequency with which they are hit with both major and minor violations. Together with age, location, credit history, and demographics, car insurance companies tally risk. This risk assessment profile determines how likely you are to file a claim and cost the company major dough.

Luckily, an insurance company knows how to weigh each violation. For example, if the only blemish on your record is rolling through a stop sign, you probably won’t see your premiums go up too much. The same goes for minor speeding infractions. However, if you have several speeding infractions or violations, your premiums will suffer. The moral of the story? Strive to keep your record clean and drive responsibly behind the wheel. Not only will you stay safe while driving, but you’ll save some major dough on your car insurance premiums!