NMA Email Newsletter: Issue #40

Traffic Violation Records

Occasionally, the question of how long traffic violations remain on the offender’s driving record is asked by a member. The short answer is that states are not consistent in this regard. It is not unusual for traffic citation records to be kept for five years, with more serious violation being held for ten years or more. In many cases, DUI violations are posted permanently on the driver’s record.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued Guideline No. 10, Traffic Records, as part of its Uniform Guidelines for State Highway Safety Programs. The opening sentence of the guideline states, “Each State, in cooperation with its political subdivisions, should establish and implement a complete and comprehensive traffic records program.” The operative words are “guideline” and “should.” Guideline No. 10 does not stipulate a record retention period.

It is likely that the insurance companies keep permanent records of a customer’s driving record, only going back to the states’ data for fresh information. These companies are legally allowed to exchange customer information and collude on competitive issues. Health care is not the only insurance-related industry that needs reform.

To put the records retention issue into current perspective, when many jurisdictions are looking for revenue wherever they can get it, consider a story published by voiceofsandiego.org last week. In 1990, a Seattle man received a $72 ticket in San Diego for having a broken headlight on his 1965 VW Bug. The headlight was fixed, the fine was paid, and the man had the officer sign off on the repair.

Nineteen years later, the San Diego County court system issued another citation of $322 to cover the original ticket plus a $250 penalty. The evidence of the 1990 transactions are long gone and there is no statute of limitation involved. The Seattle man now has to either pay, convince the judge to throw out the case, or ignore the citation and have a mark on his driving and credit records. Not surprisingly, the cost of hiring a lawyer to fight this outrage would cost more than the $322.

The moral of the story regarding traffic violation records is to hold on to the evidence. Forever.


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