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Tracking traffic citations through court adjudications to posting to public driver records

McCartt, Anne T.; Solomon, Mark G.
Traffic Injury Prevention (TIP)
June 2004

Research has shown that one of the best predictors of a driver's future crash risk is the number of prior moving traffic violations (e.g., speeding). Public driver records are used by government and nongovernment users to assess drivers' future crash risks. However, the adequacy of such records may be compromised by deficient recordkeeping systems and by court-based diversion programs (e.g., probation before judgment, traffic school election) that allow drivers presumed guilty to avoid convictions in court and posting of the violations to their driver records. Using a case study approach in four jurisdictions in three states, citations issued for traffic violations were tracked through court adjudication to placement on driver records. Individual court case records and driver history records were reviewed. The percentages of citations issued that appeared on driver records were 58-87% for moving violations, 30-94% for driving while impaired (DWI), and 67-95% for occupant restraint violations. Diversion programs were a significant factor in two states, where 21% and 35% of moving violation citations resulted in diversions. Almost all court convictions in each jurisdiction were recorded on driver records, but few citations resulting in diversions were recorded. Thus, diversion programs in some jurisdictions substantially reduce the utility of public driver records as reliable indicators of prior traffic violations and future crash risks. Recordkeeping inefficiencies and errors were less important factors in this study.