Driving is one of the most dangerous activities an average person will do during his lifetime. Because it is such a common activity, many people disregard the dangers posed by driving; nevertheless, thousands of people are killed in car accidents each year, with millions of dollars in damage caused to property across the country. Due to the dangers posed by driving, individuals must pursue driver’s education courses and pass a test in order to be allowed to drive. Most people learn to drive when they are 16, although recent changes to state law have mandated that drivers turn 18 before being allowed a full unrestricted license.

In some situations, a driver may lose his or her right to drive. A suspended license is a punishment given to individuals who have proven themselves to be irresponsible while driving. For example, a license can be suspended due to a DUI conviction, unpaid speeding tickets, or lapsed insurance. Your license could also be revoked if you cause damage in a car accident that you do not pay for, either because you have no insurance or because your insurance was not sufficient to cover the damage. Some states will also revoke your license if you fail to report the accident to the DMV after the incident occurs.

In any event, it’s important to take steps to have your license legally reinstated before you begin driving again. Driving without a license can have very serious consequences.

Legal Consequences of Driving without a License

The consequences of driving without a license vary from one state to the next, so you should always check with your specific state laws if you are uncertain what the rules are regarding your license. Generally, the punishment will depend on whether you have had issues with your license in the past or if this is your first offense.

First offenders:

Depending upon the situation and the reason that you have no license, first offenders of driving without a license can expect to pay from $100 to $200 in fines. They may also be subject to a year of having their license revoked and can even spend 90 days in prison.

Multiple offenders

After your first offense, penalties go up substantially. Fines can go as high as $600, and you can end up in prison for up to a year. If your license was suspended due to a previous driving-without-a-license charge, the punishment may be even harsher.

Insurance Consequences

Driving without a license doesn’t only affect you through legal concerns, however. A suspended license can also negatively affect your car insurance. Because car insurance companies prefer to insure customers who are at a low risk of being involved in an accident, they punish those who show irresponsible driving habits. Depending upon the reason your license was revoked, your insurance company’s response may be more dramatic.

Since you should not be driving without a license, your insurance company may cancel your car insurance policy if it learns that you have a suspended license. In other cases, your rates may just dramatically increase. Either way, you will need to reinstate your license before your insurance can return to normal.

Additionally, if you drive a vehicle with a suspended license and subsequently wreck that vehicle, your insurance company may deny the claim. A claim denial means that not only will your vehicle’s repairs not be covered, any damage that you cause would also not be covered. In the event of a claim denial, you will be held personally responsible for any damage and injuries you cause in an auto accident.

Your own insurance is not the only one affected by your suspended license. If you live with someone, that person’s car insurance rates may also go up due to your driving history. In order to keep their rates from being affected, your parents or other resident relatives may need to exclude you from their auto policy. This means that you are not allowed to drive any of their vehicles; if you do drive a car that you are excluded from driving, the claim will be denied.

Reinstating a License

Depending on the reason for your license’s suspension, the process to reinstate it will differ. Reinstatement laws also very from one state to the next. The best way to determine how to get your license back is to check the local DMV website for your state, or call and ask the DMV. If they do not have the answer immediately available, they will be able to direct you to the appropriate resources.

In some situations, all you need to do in order to reinstate your suspended license is to pay off your tickets or provide proof of payment for an auto accident. In other cases, such as DUI convictions, the process is more complex. In addition to any fines and jail time you need to serve, the state may require you to take an Alcoholic’s Anonymous program, take part in additional driver’s education courses or fulfill other requirements.

Once you have obtained a new license, it’s important to focus on safe driving practices. Be sure to pay tickets in a timely manner, maintain proper insurance on your vehicle at all times and never drink and drive. By maintaining safe driving habits, you can keep your license from being suspended a second time and also begin repairing the damage to your car insurance rates that was caused by the license being revoked.