Many of us work hard to preserve and improve our reputation. A person’s reputation matters a great deal in their professional and even their personal life. As a motorist, possessing a clean driving record is the closest thing to having a pristine reputation.
The current status of your driving record can make a huge difference in your life. It can affect things like your driving privileges and even your job search. Don’t forget about the impact that your driving record can also have on your finances.
Although it may not seem like it, the reality is that your driving record can have an enormous impact on your life. Learn more about the importance of having a clean record and other relevant topics by reading on.
Understanding Your Driving Record
As its name suggests, the driving record is responsible for running a tally of your entire driving history.
Among the items included in your driving history are any violations you may have committed. It will note items such as OUI convictions, speeding violations, and other offenses of that nature.
The driving record will also display any driving or vehicle-related fees you haven’t paid yet. The record may even indicate if you are late making certain payments.
Your driving record will also reflect traffic incidents that you were involved in previously.
In the state of Massachusetts, they will assess points to you if you have committed certain violations. Those points will be visible on your driving record.
It is worth noting that your record will show more than the negative aspects of your driving history. The record will also display the type of driver’s license you have and any endorsements. It will also show if you have attended certain road safety classes.
Since it is a driving record, it is only concerned about the things you’ve done as a motorist. Whether or not you’ve committed other violations that have nothing to do with your driving will not be reflected by the record.
The Safe Driver Insurance Plan and How It Relates to Your Driving Record
The driving record offers a clear look at a person’s driving history. From that standpoint, it’s easy to see why it can be so helpful.
However, other parties can also view it. Those parties include government agencies, lawyers, and potential employers.
Insurance companies also have a right to view your driving record, and that is important. In Massachusetts, insurance companies can use something known as the Safe Driver Insurance Plan to figure out how much your policy will cost.
The Safe Driver Insurance Plan or SDIP provides recommendations regarding credits and surcharges that they may factor into the equation when coming up with your premiums.
Basically, insurance companies can reference the information in your driving record to determine how much they will charge you for the policy you’re seeking. If the insurer sees that you have a spotty record, they can hike up your premiums. They may even decline to insure you.
On the other hand, having a clean driving record can be a great thing. Insurance companies won’t raise the premiums for drivers with pristine records. You may even be qualified to receive discounts.
How Do Insurance Companies Reference the Safe Driver Insurance Plan?
Insurance companies can use the Safe Driver Insurance Plan in one of two ways.
First off, they can use the SDIP as their merit rating plan. Their other option is to craft an insurance plan through the Massachusetts Automobile Insurance Plan.
Your insurer deciding to use the SDIP can affect your plan in up to four different ways. Per the Massachusetts government, specific coverage terms that it will affect include bodily injury to others, damage to someone else’s property, and personal injury protection claims arising from at-fault incidents.
Collision coverage can also be affected by your insurer using the SDIP. However, that’s not guaranteed to have an impact on your plan because collision coverage is optional.
Given the different ways in which the SDIP can affect your premiums, you can understand why having a clean driving record is so important from a financial standpoint. It could even be the deciding factor in whether you can afford your preferred policy.
One more thing to note is that insurance companies are not obligated to use the SDIP. They are free to come up with their merit rating plans if they so desire. If your insurer operates that way, there’s a chance that your driving record will have less of an impact on your premiums.
What Are Surchargeable Incidents?
While looking through the Safe Driver Insurance Plan, you will eventually stumble upon the term “surchargeable incident.” That’s a term you need to become familiar with as a Massachusetts motorist.
According to the state of Massachusetts, a surchargeable incident is any traffic accident or violation that can lead to your premium rates increasing. To put it another way, they are the blemishes on your driving record.
To learn more about the surchargeable incidents, let’s dive deeper into the traffic violations and accidents that can impact your insurance rates.
The traffic violations that matter when it comes to your insurance rates are minor traffic law offenses or major traffic law offenses.
A minor traffic law violation will result in two surcharge points added to your record. Some examples are running a stop sign, failing to yield to a pedestrian, or speeding.
The major traffic law violations are criminal offenses. For example, drunk driving is considered a major traffic law violation. If you’re guilty of a major traffic law violation, they will add five points to your driving record.
Points will go on your driving record if you are at fault for a particular accident.
Whether an accident is minor or major, the payout amount is the deciding factor. Any payout in the range of $1000 to $5000 is minor. If the payout is higher than $5000, the accident is major.
Three points will go on your record if you are deemed responsible for a minor accident. That goes up to four points if it was a major accident.
Will Your Driver’s License Be Suspended if You Have Too Many Surcharge Points?
Technically, the surcharge points assessed to driving records only impact negatively on insurance premiums. They won’t decide whether to suspend your driver’s license.
It is worth pointing out, though, that recording too many surchargeable incidents within a specific amount of time can lead to suspension. For example, you could expect your license to be suspended if you tallied three surchargeable incidents within two years.
Penalties for certain violations may also include license suspension, so you can still lose your driving privileges that way.
You Can Appeal An Insurance Surcharge
Massachusetts law allows you to appeal a surcharge levied by your insurance company. You will get a notice of the surcharge. The notice will indicate how you can appeal the surcharge. You are required to send the appeal to the Division of Insurance Board of Appeal along with the filing fee.
A hearing will be scheduled, and you have the right to present your own testimony, to introduce exhibits, and to call witnesses. Although the hearing is a formal administrative hearing under oath, the rules of evidence are relaxed. If you honestly feel that the assessment was unfair or incorrect, you should certainly take this appeal.
Please note that as of the date of this article (March 2021), the Board of Appeal if horribly backlogged because of the COVID outbreak, and it will likely not begin to catch up on actual hearings for another year.
What Are the Incentives Motorists May Receive for Maintaining a Clean Driving Record?
Earlier, we touched briefly on the fact that insurance companies can provide discounts to motorists with clean driving records. Let’s expand on that topic in this section.
Excellent Driver Discount
The first incentive for maintaining a clean driving record in Massachusetts is that you could become qualified for the Excellent Driver Discount. Motorists may receive up to a 10 percent discount on their preferred plan if they qualify.
Do note, though, that you won’t always receive a 10 percent discount. Some insurers may lower their discount offer a bit.
To qualify for the Excellent Driver Discount, a motorist must have at least five years of driving experience and no surchargeable incidents recorded within that period.
You can still qualify with one incident on your record. However, that incident should be nothing more than a minor traffic law violation. Furthermore, that violation should be at least three years old.
Excellent Driver Discount Plus
Being eligible for the Excellent Driver Discount Plus means they can reduce your premiums by up to 24 percent. That’s a big discount and explains why the qualifications are stricter.
If you want the Excellent Driver Discount Plus, you must have at least six years of driving experience. During that time, there must be no surchargeable incident present on your record.
Having a clean driving record can benefit you in another way. Your company may offer a plan for accident forgiveness. Under these plans, a minor at-fault incident will not result in an increased premium in the next year. But don’t expect two bites at the apple! This benefit can usually only be used once.
How Do You Remove the Surcharge Points on Your Driving Record?
Removing surcharge points from your driving record is possible, but it can take some time.
The first method involves practicing responsible driving for the foreseeable future. Massachusetts has a “Clean in 3” provision that allows one surcharge point to be deducted from a person’s driving record annually.
To be eligible, you must have at least three years of driving experience, no more than three surchargeable incidents on your record for the last five years, and the most recent incident must be at least three years old.
Again, you’re only getting one point removed every year, so this will take a while.
The other method of removing points from your driving record involves correcting a mistake. It’s possible that the points on your driving record are not supposed to be there.
You can contact the Registry of Motor Vehicles and let them know that they are incorrectly on your driving record. After proving the points shouldn’t be there, your record will be clean once again.
How Do You Request Your Driving Record?
While it’s unfortunate that mistakes can be on a person’s driving record, they happen sometimes. People are prone to making mistakes, after all.
Because of that, you must keep a close eye on your driving record annually. You should also check if you were recently in an accident or settled a legal matter to a potential traffic violation.
So, how do you get your hands on your driving record? You can do that by getting in touch with the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Motorists can request their driving records online or by mail.
Requesting Your Driving Record by Mail
Requesting your driving record by mail will still involve going online. You have to start by downloading and printing the Public Driving Record Request form. Fill out that form and enclose that along with the check for your payment.
The mailing address to send the form and payment to is:
Registry of Motor Vehicles
Court Records Department
P.O. Box 55896
Boston, MA 02205
Expect your driving record to arrive no more than two weeks after you sent the request.
Requesting Your Driving Record Online
Asking for your driving record online is more convenient. Simply head over to the Registry of Motor Vehicles website and provide the details and payment requested. You should view your driving record quickly if you submit your request online.
What Are the Driving Records You Can Request?
Motorists can request either their unattested driving record or their true and attested driving record.
An unattested driving record is only for informational purposes. This is all you’ll need if you want to keep an eye on your driving record.
Requesting an unattested driving record will cost $8.
The true and attested driving record has the signature of the Registrar of Motor Vehicles. You can use it for official purposes, so it may be what you need in certain scenarios.
The fee for requesting a true and attested driving record sits at $20.
If you’re dealing with issues related to your driving record, we at Breakstone, White & Gluck can help. We can assist if you’re contesting surchargeable incidents or if you’re trying to remove points mistakenly on your driving record. Contact us today to learn more about the services we provide.