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If you get a speeding ticket while traveling, does it stay on your record back in your home state?

We receive this question from friends and family (and readers) all the time, so we looked into how the tangled web is organized.

When it comes to how a ticket in your home state affects your driver's license status in another state, the answer is complex and changing each year. If you want to know how much information follows you around, the quick answer is: yes it does, so watch your speed. Your unpaid speeding ticket in California, for example, will prevent you from being able to renew your Ohio driver's license. 

The more complete answer is that different information follows you different places in different ways.

Here's how it works: There are three major databases that keep track of your driver's license info: the National Driver Register (NDR, also referred to as the Problem Driver Pointer System (PDPS)), the Driver License Compact (DLC) and the Non-Resident Violator Compact (NRVC). None of these names sound like places at which you'd want to sit down and have dinner, do they?

The NDR: Don't Show Up On This List

The NDR is a creation of The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which launched ten years ago. The FMCSA's "primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries," part of which it attempts to do by keeping track of infamous drivers, and although its name suggest commercial license holders -- like truck drivers -- it's more than that. It keeps a look out on regular car drivers as well.

The National Driver Register keeps tabs on "drivers who have had their licenses revoked or suspended, or who have been convicted of serious traffic violations such as driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs." Every state and the District of Columbia submits information to the NDR and they are obligated to check the NDR before granting any license privileges. Your name being on the NDR doesn't hinder your getting a license, it is merely a way of keeping track of your violations. However, if your license has been suspended, revoked, or otherwise cancelled, or you've been reported as a problem driver in any state, there's a very good chance your license application will get a red "Denied" stamped across it.

Here's an example of how the NDR works. Say your home state is Pennsylvania, and you have a driver's license there. The PA department of transportation will check the National Driver Register three and six months before you are up for renewal, and if it finds an issue in another state, such as a DUI in Florida that has not been attended to, they'll let you know.

You would then need to resolve the issue in Florida before you could renew your license in your home state. You are still legally allowed to drive in Pennsylvania as long as your PA license is valid - you simply can't get a new license. So, the time would be ticking.

If you are in the NDR, your record will consist of your name, gender, date of birth, license number, and the name of the state that reported you.

Anything more detailed, like a specific violation reported or information on a suspension or conviction, is not included (the reporting state holds on to that).

Various bodies can access the information, like a company that employs drivers or one that hires pilots, but the amount of information they receive might differ. An employer of drivers is notified of anything reported to the NDR in the past three years, while an airline is notified of any record from the past five years.

You have a right to find out if you're listed in the NDR, and you can get a copy of any NDR file sent to a potential employer. This can be handy, especially for commercial drivers, because if your home state doesn't take the necessary steps, you could be pulled over and stripped of your CDL in another state. Your state's license issuer will have the guidelines and forms to request that information, or you can call the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) directly at 202-366-4800 for more info.

The DLC and NRVC: How States Know Where You've Been

The way tickets themselves actually follow you are results of the Driver License Compact and the Non-Resident Violator Compact. They are agreements between some states, but both will soon get replaced by the Driver License Agreement.

All three of those items are products of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, which is "a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization developing model programs in motor vehicle administration, law enforcement and highway safety." Think of it as a treaty organization for state bodies that deal with licensing and motor vehicle laws, with the aim of making laws, and especially punishments, more uniform across state lines.

Yet, while the AAMVA can form policy on issues such as tinted windows and laws against radar and laser detectors, it is up to an individual state to ratify and join any provision. Having been around since 1933, the body's goal now is "one driver, one license, one record."

Unlike the NDR, which merely notifies a state to tell you to address a problem elsewhere, the DLC effectively makes a violation in another state the equivalent of a violation in your home state.

To go back to the Pennsylvania and Florida example, if you get a ticket in Florida, the Pennsylvania DOT will assess points to your PA license. If your driving privileges are suspended in Florida, then Pennsylvania will suspend your license. The NDR only requires Pennsylvania to hold back your driving rights until you address the matter in Florida, whereas the DLC makes you pay the price for your violations in Florida no matter where you are.

The NRVC works in the same manner, but in being less onerous, it resides somewhere between the DLC and NDR. If you get a ticket in another state and don't pay it, your home state will suspend your license until you handle the issue in the other state. However, your home state will not issue points and penalties on your license, as is the case with the DLC. On the other hand, if your home state isn't a member of the NRVC and you get pulled over somewhere else, you might be forced immediately to post bond before you can drive again.

Naturally, this being a voluntary treaty organization, there are loopholes.

Not all states are members of the DLC or NVRC: Georgia, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Massachusetts aren't members of the DLC.

Wisconsin, California, Montana, Oregon, and Alaska are not a part of the NVRC. Michigan is not a member of either compact, but it does exchange information and will take action if it wishes.

How the states process violations and which violations they take into consideration also differ: some only use it for what they consider serious offenses, some have further requirements for taking action.

For instance, Kansas, Wyoming, Minnesota, Arizona, Iowa, and South Dakota won't record speeding tickets from other states unless they're ten miles per hour or more over the limit. And, most importantly, violations can only be "shared" if both states have the same violation to begin with. Get pulled over for an offense in Florida that Pennsylvania hasn't outlawed, and there's no action taken by Pennsylvania.

The DLA: The Future (And Why You Should Be Careful Going Forward)

Closing loopholes is where the Driver License Agreement comes in, and it's done with a bit of an iron fist. Any state becoming a party to the DLA submits to the fact that DLA regulations supercede any state law contrary to it. The DLA requires states to take action even if the home state doesn't have the same statute under which you were ticketed.

Say you get cited for careless driving in Colorado but your home state has no such violation; in that case, your home state will look for the closest comparable citation it could issue, such as reckless driving, and assess points and penalties based on that. And the AAMVA is working to expand the DLA internationally, not only to Canada and Mexico but to Europe, Australia, and Africa as well. In the future, when you're caught speeding to the airport in Namibia, you'll have a hell of a time trying to renew your license in Pennsylvania.

Finally, the DLA requires all member states to make all information available to member and non-member states, and that will include information like Social Security numbers.

The DLA is in its early stages - at the moment only three states are members (Connecticut, Arkansas and Massachusetts). But there are political machines in other states lobbying to join, and it has to be looked at as inevitable that the DLA will one day come into severe force in a greater part of the nation...if not the world.

No, it won't mean the end of the world, and on the bright side it will mean a closer end to really bad drivers maintaining their privileges. But the long arm of the law -- and increasingly its keen eye -- will be watching even those who amass parking tickets, not just the moving violators.

Perhaps Wez, from Mad Max: The Road Warrior, said it best: "You can run, but you can't hide."

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Months Ago
      Yes drive like your supposed to and you won't get a ticket
      • 5 Months Ago
      I don't think it should follow from state to state, because I have gotten two tickets where I was NOT speeding. They were both in the same town, where I do not live. I tried to fight the first one and I had to drive 60 miles to that town THREE times to go to court to do it. Then, the judge found me guilty anyway, because he believed the policeman over me. The second one I got in that town I just paid. They just wanted money, so I do not believe in this silly system of reporting driving records from all over the world. I mean seriously, why would the USA believe a Russian or Chinese cop anyway??? Can't even trust many of our own.
      • 5 Months Ago
      Hey, abcm4u. All this crap is about government control, it's got nothing to do about safety etc, It's the elite that are in power controling everything and eventually the entier world if they could, that way they would close the loop holes so you couldn't even escape them in Zimbabwe,
      Judge Davis
      • 5 Months Ago
      There are places on earth that punish speeders much harsher than we do. Why not go there?
      • 5 Months Ago
      I am a retired man who rides a motorcycle 15K and drives a car 10/12K per annum. I have not had a ticket in 30+ years. My secret: a retired cop? Nope. Just common sense. Avoid extremes. As I recall from my early travels in the late 60's, the speed limit out West was "right & reasonable". While not as forgiving today in a climate of "revenue makeup" budgets, cops aren't going to screw Joe Citizen for an infraction within reasonable boundaries.
      • 5 Months Ago
      Most recently I received a ticket in Nevada. I was told that I could be put in jail if I were to fail to stop at a stop sign. There point system is very tough, and if I were to receive one more ticket in that state, I would be jailed. JAILED! I frequently drive through Nevada on my way to California, from Colorado and Utah. I am thinking of traveling north to Wyoming, crossing into Idaho, and to avoid Nevada.
      • 5 Months Ago
      • 5 Months Ago
      My husband is a perfect example of this happening to him. He renewed his license recently and was suspended due to a parking from a state where he he was visiting 14 years ago. It took a long time to resolve and he was unable to get a temporary license in the interim...
      • 5 Months Ago
      verotikaxo wrote: "I got a ticket for farting" In your case, even though you still have to pay the penalty for perpetrating the act in any state other than your own -- nonetheless I hope for your neighbors' sake you show some pity and go to some distant downwind jurisdiction if you must transgress again.
      • 5 Months Ago
      I am from N.J. got a speeding ticket in North Carolina......80 in a 65, will points show up on my N.J. licence?
      • 5 Months Ago
      OK, Federal regulation superseding State laws in completely unconstitutional (so is having a number that marks you, AKA a social security number, yet we have been so complacent in this society we have allowed it). Grant it, we need rules and regulations to help with safety, but at what point does safety supersede liberty? The whole concept of diplomatic immunity was so a representative of a foreign government could not be punished for unknowingly violating another government’s laws, so how can we just say and do nothing as some federal organization tries to ********** citizens for breaking a state law they are not a resident in by trying to search for some "comparable" law from their home State to make them “pay for their crime?”. How friggin fascist is this country becoming? Remember, Hitler was embraced in the beginning of his regime and then everyone had to start carrying around papers (AKA something akin to a driver's license and social security card) just to get around anywhere. This is great to impede law breakers, ******** still a very short step from being turned around and completely abused by a dominant federal/global power. If you think I'm being a little extreme, just talk to some survivors of a few South American countries who've had loved ones "disappear" because they "might" have posed some type of threat to their national government. If s*** like this goes through our legislature, who knows where this country will be 50 years from now? I'm a psychiatrist (yes, I did graduate medical school, I'm a "real doctor") and make a living of drawing conclusions from not only a medical standpoint but from patterns of human behavior, as well as looking at the past to predict the future for not only individuals, but future families and generations. Have any of you who would seriously criticize this comment ever read, I mean really read, the Bill of Rights or The Constitution? If you had, there is no argument that we are a far cry from the principles of what this country was founded on, and that we are going farther from it with each passing day, and with each person's complacency. God help us all.
      • 5 Months Ago
      There are raggedy-ass towns such as the speed trap, South Bay in Florida (State Hwy 80 between Fort Myers and West Palm Beach), that depend on fines to support their existance, Florida also has a traffic fine legal industry created by the Florida lawyers wherein you can pay a lawyer what amounts to two-thirds of the possible fine without you having to show up in court and the case will be dismissed without points on your license or reported to your insurance company. It's a scam from git -go, but you have a choice. That's Florida for you. Beware!
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