Out-of-state traffic tickets can haunt you

Think you can maintain your perfect driving record as long as you limit your speeding tickets to other states? Not so fast. Most states not only will share information about traffic violations with your home state, but your home state may even deliver its own punishment.

“You can run but you cannot hide,” says Kevin Lewis, director of driver programs for the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.

And you probably can't hide that out-of-state ticket from your auto insurance company, either.

out of state traffic tickets

Recognizing that reckless driving can be harmful no matter where it takes place, most states have joined the Driver License Compact. Under this agreement, 45 states and the District of Columbia send information about out-of-state traffic violators to a driver’s home state. Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Michigan and Wisconsin aren't members of the compact. However, some of those non-members often exchange information as if they were part of the compact.

Meanwhile, the Nonresident Violator Compact is designed to ensure that drivers don’t return home and leave behind unpaid traffic tickets in other states. Under this arrangement, if an out-of-town driver doesn’t comply with the punishment for a traffic ticket, his or her home state would be alerted and the home state would begin license suspension proceedings. Forty-four states and the District of Columbia are members; only Alaska, California, Montana, Oregon, Michigan and Wisconsin are not.

In the past, neighboring states often would come up with their own agreements for sharing information about out-of-state traffic citations. For example, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia devised an agreement back in the 1960s, as did New York, New Jersey and other states in the region. However, widespread acceptance of the two compacts has wiped out the need for regional agreements.

Serious infractions harder to conceal

For the most part, states don’t care much about minor traffic violations, such as parking or standing infractions. So an out-of-state parking ticket or a citation issued for a broken taillight is not likely to be sent to your home state.

However, the more serious the infraction, the more likely it will follow you wherever you go. Not only must you worry about the two compacts, but the National Driver Register -- a database run by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration -- keeps track of drivers who’ve had their driving privileges suspended, revoked, cancelled or denied. The database includes drivers who are guilty of serious traffic violations such as DWI.

Whenever a driver applies for a license or seeks to renew it, state motor vehicle departments check the database for infractions, which then can be attached to your driving record and can be used to deny driving privileges, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

State rules differ

What states do with information about residents’ out-of-state traffic violations varies from place to place. Some states add only certain types of violations to a resident’s driving record. For example, a state that records only those speeding violations for driving 20 miles per hour over the limit might not flag an out-of-state citation for driving 10 mph over the limit.

States also vary in how out-of-state infractions affect a driver’s record. For example, New Jersey assesses two points on residents’ driving records for all out-of-state moving violations. On the other hand, New York does not tack points onto a driver’s record for out-of-state traffic violations unless those violations occurred in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

Some states may even withdraw your driving privileges for major violations in other states. For example, Wisconsin will suspend privileges for such out-of-state infractions as DWI, attempting to elude an officer and hit-and-run.

Out-of-state tickets and auto insurance

Of course, one of the biggest questions that drivers want answered is: Will an out-of-state ticket cause insurance premiums to rise? The answer depends on several factors:

• Whether your state adds that type of infraction to your driving record.

• The insurance laws in your state. For example, according to New York traffic attorneys Scott Feifer and Matthew Greenberg, citations for speeding up to 15 miles per hour over the limit shouldn’t harm your insurance rates.

• Your insurer’s practices when it comes to checking driving records. The more often your insurer checks driving records, the more likely you’ll soon face an increase. "Those serious violations could definitely have an effect on someone’s insurance rate if the insurance company pulls that driver’s record,” Lewis says.

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