AutoInsurance.com
Published: January 8, 2022Last updated: October 17, 2022

Driver Risk: How Risky Are You?

How software can tell your risk of being in collisions

How safe of a driver are you? Most people would probably say they’re one of the safest drivers, but if you tend to speed, brake harshly, or drive while buzzed, your driver risk is higher.

Insurance companies attempt to assess your risk when selling you an insurance policy, but there is one one-size-fits-all method to determine your risk. Companies in the trucking industry use driver risk assessments to determine who to hire, and many tech companies offer software that determines driver risk.

Here, we’ve laid out everything you need to know about driver risk, and how to minimize your risks while driving.

Driver Risk

Insurance companies have their own algorithms for determining prices, separate from the software that trucking and fleet companies use to determine driver risk. They take a person’s driving history into account, including their number of at-fault accidents, tickets, and DUIs in the past three to five years.

What Is Driver Risk?

Driver risk is an independent measure of how prone someone is to traffic fatalities, injuries, and collisions in general, creating a risk profile for each individual who takes the assessment. It’s part of the field of Intelligent Transportation Systems, risk management software related to transportation such as driving.

How Is Driver Risk Determined?

While different companies have different software for determining driver risk, they all take into account factors such as these:

  • Aggressive acceleration
  • Distracted driving
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Drowsy driving
  • Excessive speeding events
  • Hard cornering
  • Harsh braking1

CheckDID YOU KNOW?

In 2018, the year of the most recent federal data, there were 2,841 deaths from distracted driving in the U.S.2

Risk Levels

As driving risk isn’t an agreed-upon metric, companies have different levels of risk. We’ve seen language like “safe,” “acceptable,” and “risky,” as well as “low risky,” “medium risky,” and “high risky.”3

CheckTIP

If you’re a high-risk driver, check out the best high-risk auto insurance.

These are some companies that offer driver risk software:

  • DriverMetrics
  • SambaSafety
  • TransUnion DriverRisk
  • Verisk
  • Zurich

Risk levels are determined by comparing a respondent’s test results to the rest of the population. Here’s an example:

Risk range Percentile score ranges
Low 0-39th
Medium 40-69th
Problem 70-89th
Severe 90-100th

The Risks of Driving

There’s no arguing: Driving is risky, even with the safest practices. These are some of its risks:

Accidents

Whether or not you’re at fault, accidents are always a risk you take when you drive. At-fault accidents increase the cost of auto insurance, unless the incident falls under an accident forgiveness clause.

Tickets

Whether it’s for speeding or driving under the influence (DUI), getting tickets can lead to fines as well as insurance rate increases.

SR22s and FR44s

In some states, if you get a DUI or are caught driving without insurance, you may have to get an SR22, which is a certificate verifying that you have the required motor vehicle liability insurance. In Virginia and Florida, in some cases, you’ll need to get an FR44 instead, which is a form that verifies you have coverage above the minimum.

Not only will you have to pay fees for these forms, but having an SR22 or an FR44 also makes it more difficult and thus expensive to get insurance. Not every state provides easily accessible information on SR22s, but we’ve compiled the information for 32 of the 50 states below.

State When an SR22 is required — and for how long
Alabama If you’ve given false proof of insurance and your vehicle registration has been suspended — for 3 years
Alaska If your driving privileges have been suspended or revoked — for 3 years after the revocation ends

If you’ve received a DWI or refusal convict — for 5 years after the ending date on a first offense, 10 years from the ending date on a second offense, or 20 years from the ending date of a third offense

If you’ve had a fourth offense for a refusal or DWI conviction

If you have an unsatisfied judgment

Arizona If you’ve received a revocation or suspension — for 3 years after the date you become eligible for reinstatement
California For all vehicles operated or parked on California roads
Colorado If you reinstate from specific revocations or suspensions
Delaware Not required
Florida Not applicable; only requires FR44 for DUI convictions
Georgia If you’ve been declared a habitual violator and have had your driver’s license revoked for a 5-year period — for 3 years
Idaho If you’ve failed to provide insurance — for the length of your suspension

If you’ve gotten a DUI, refused to submit to a Breathalyzer test, or been convicted of an aggravated DUI

If you’ve received an unsatisfied judgment, gotten an aggravated DUI in a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), left the scene of an accident resulting in injury or death in a CMV, or used a CMV or non-CMV to commit a felony

Illinois If you’ve had safety responsibility suspensions, revocations, unsatisfied judgment suspensions, or mandatory insurance supervisions

If you’ve received 3 or more convictions for mandatory insurance violations

Indiana If your driving privileges have been suspended due to your conviction of certain court-related offenses or insurance violations — for 3 years for a first or second no-insurance suspension, 5 years for a third or subsequent no-insurance suspensions
Kentucky Not required
Minnesota Not required
Montana If you’ve had your driver’s license revoked for certain felony convictions (e.g., negligent homicide while driving) or for getting 30 or more conviction points within 3 years
Nevada If you’ve had a lapse in coverage for 91 or more days for a first or second offense, or for more than 1 day for a third offense — for 3 years
New Hampshire If you’ve been convicted of driving while intoxicated — for at least 3 years after the date of conviction for the first offense, longer for subsequent offenses

If you’ve been decertified as a habitual offender before your license/operating privileges are restored — for at least 3 years after the date of habitual offender decertification hearing

If you’ve appeared at administrative hearings for certain offenses (e.g., demerit points)

If you’ve been found at fault for an uninsured accident — for at least 3 years from the accident date

If you’ve been convicted of leaving the scene of an accident, having bad conduct after an accident, or had more than 1 conviction of reckless operation

New Mexico Not required
New York Not required
North Carolina Not required
North Dakota If you’ve had a DUI

If you’ve refused information on your driving record

Ohio If you’ve been caught driving without financial responsibility
Oklahoma Not required
Oregon If you’ve been convicted of driving without insurance — beginning on the conviction date

If you own a vehicle that was uninsured at the time of an accident — beginning on the accident date

If you are trying to reinstate your driving privileges — beginning on the suspension end date

If you are applying for a probationary/hardship permit — beginning when you apply for the permit and ending on the permit expiration date

Pennsylvania Not required
South Dakota If you’ve had your license revoked or suspended following a conviction for having no insurance, vehicular homicide, DUI, or the second offense of reckless driving in a 1-year period — for 3 years after the date of eligibility for reinstatement
Tennessee If you are under the Driver Improvement Program suspension and have a restricted or temporary driver’s license (can only be issued 1 restricted or temporary driver’s license in a 5-year period)
Texas If your driver’s license has been suspended due to a car crash

If you’ve received more than 1 conviction for having no motor vehicle liability insurance

If you’ve had a civil judgment filed against you — for 2 years after the date the judgment was rendered

If you’ve placed a security deposit with the Texas Department of Public Safety to comply with a crash default or crash suspension

Virginia If you’ve been convicted of unsatisfied judgments, uninsured motor vehicle suspension, failure to provide proof of insurance associated with insurance monitoring, or falsifying insurance certification — for 3 years

If your driver’s license has been suspended as a result of a conviction for voluntary or involuntary manslaughter from operating a motor vehicle, perjury to the DMV regarding motor vehicle registration or a driver’s license application, a felony under motor vehicle law, a hit-and-run, or, for the second time, driving for rent or hire without a license — for 3 years

Washington If you’ve been convicted or forfeited bail for certain offenses — for 3 years from the date you can reinstate your license

If you haven’t paid judgments — for 3 years from the date you can reinstate your license

If you’ve driven or owned a vehicle involved in an accident — for 3 years from the date you can reinstate your license

West Virginia If your license has been suspended or revoked — for 3 years

If you have mandatory car insurance supervision or an unsatisfied judgment against you — for 3 years

Wisconsin If you’ve had to obtain an occupational license after yours was revoked or suspended

If you need to reinstate your driver’s license after your operating privileges or vehicle registration have been revoked — for 3 years after the date you’re eligible to reinstate

If you reinstate after a suspension due to being uninsured/underinsured or having a damage judgment — for 3 years after the date you’re eligible to reinstate

If you are 18 and don’t have a sponsor

Wyoming If you’ve been convicted of a DUI — for 3 years

Teen Driving Risks

Driving is even riskier for teens, who are inexperienced and thus more likely to be involved in accidents. While these risks apply to all drivers, they’re especially acute for teens, which is why auto insurance costs more for teens.

  • Nighttime driving: Whether it’s from fatigue, more impaired drivers, or the difficulty of seeing, fatal crashes peak on Saturday nights when many teens are out partying with friends.
Time of day Number of fatal crashes in 2019 Percentage of all accidents (rounded to nearest whole number) Number of nonfatal crashes in 2019 Percentage of all accidents (rounded to nearest whole number)
Midnight to 3:59 a.m. 4,430 13% 326,666 5%
4 to 7:59 a.m. 4,307 13% 750,193 11%
8 to 11:59 a.m. 4,050 12% 1,267,465 19%
Noon to 3:59 p.m. 6,078 18% 1,749,471 26%
4 to 7:59 p.m. 7,174 22% 1,856,564 28%
8 to 11:59 p.m. 6,956 21% 772,227 11%
Unknown 249 1% N/A N/A
Total 33,244 N/A 6,722,586 N/A4

Although the most fatal crashes take place in the afternoon and the most nonfatal crashes take place in the early evening, more people are driving during these hours. Additionally, there are more crashes during spring and summer. In these months, fatal crashes peaked between 8 p.m. and just before midnight.

  • DUIs: In 2019, over 1.3 million people were arrested for DUIs, about 0.5 percent of the total population.5 The most common group to be arrested for DUIs that year was people ages 20 to 29, when you control for the number of licensed drivers.6 Considering that drivers ages 20 to 29 are 45 percent more likely than the rest of the population to be arrested for DUIs, it’s no surprise that younger drivers pay more for auto insurance.
Age group Percentage of population that was arrested for a DUI in 2019 Difference between rest of the U.S. population (high to low, rounded to nearest whole number)
25-29 0.69 46%
20-24 0.66 44%
30-34 0.51 28%
35-39 0.38 4%
40-44 0.29 -28%
55-59 0.29 -29%
50-54 0.25 -31%
60-64 0.27 -39%
45-49 0.26 -40%
19 and under 0.22 -65%
65 and

over

0.1 -289%
  • Driving with passengers: Passengers can fall under the general concept of “distracted driving” if they’re taking your attention away from the road.
  • Driving without seat belts: Although over 90 percent of people in the U.S. wear seat belts, in 47 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in 2019, they were unrestrained. In other words, they weren’t wearing seat belts.
  • Distracted driving: Distracted driving is anything that takes your eyes off the road while you’re driving, such as texing and driving and general cell phone use while driving.7

How to Minimize Driving Risk

Reducing your driving risk means changing your behavior and attitude while driving. Here are the most important ways you can minimize your risk of an accident:

  1. Drive defensively. Defensive driving means driving in a safe way to avoid hazards. That includes planning ahead by checking the weather, leaving space between you and the car in front of you, and scanning your surroundings.8
  2. Avoid distracted driving. Don’t use your phone while driving, and if you must, use a hands-free voice assistant like Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri if it’s legal in your state. Check your DMV’s website to read up on the laws.
  3. Don’t drink and drive. It should go without saying, but don’t drink or do drugs and then drive, unless you want to get expensive DUI auto insurance and risk injuries or fatalities.
  4. Avoid road rage. Road rage is aggressive driving such as speeding, cutting people off, tailgating, weaving through traffic, or even confronting other drivers. When you’re driving, try to stay calm and avoid aggravating an already tense situation.
  5. Avoid drowsy driving. 2019 saw 697 deaths from crashes related to drowsy driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. To avoid drowsy driving, try to get enough sleep (seven to eight hours is ideal), don’t drink alcohol (which is a depressant), and make sure you can drive safely while taking your prescription medications. If a drug may cause drowsiness, it’s best not to drive while you’re on it.

Recap

While you can’t control someone else hitting your car, you can control how risky of a driver you are. Being a careful driver isn’t just a good idea for your safety; it’ll also help you avoid being responsible for an at-fault accident, which will keep the cost of your auto insurance relatively low.

Learn more in our auto insurance guide, where we go over the minimum coverage required in each state, and what other coverages we think are important for auto theft, auto vandalism, and other incidents.

Frequently Asked Questions

Since driver risk is such a big topic, we’ve received dozens of questions from our readers.

What is driver risk?

Driver risk is a measure of how likely a person is to get into collisions, particularly ones that result in fatalities or injuries.

What is an example of a driver risk?

An example of a driver risk is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Who are the most at-risk drivers?

These groups are the most at-risk drivers:

  • Drivers with road rage
  • Teen drivers and inexperienced drivers
  • Drowsy drivers
  • Drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Distracted drivers (e.g., people who text or talk on the phone while driving)
  • People who speed excessively
  • People who accelerate aggressively
  • People who brake harshly
  • People who do hard cornering

Is driving a high-risk activity? 

Whether or not driving is a high-risk activity depends on your definition of high risk.

Only 0.02 percent of licensed drivers in the U.S. died in traffic fatalities in 2019, according to federal motor vehicle reports. However, that amounted to over 36,000 people. If you drive unsafely, like driving under the influence or while texting, driving becomes a high-risk activity. However, if you are sober, focused, and practicing the safest driving skills, you can decrease your risk factors.

Citations

  1. Driver Behavior Modelling and Risk Profiling Using Large-Scale Naturalistic Driving Data. ProQuest. (2019).
    https://www.proquest.com/openview/b1cb8b51f6cda87d9a5f18f2a175d170/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750&diss=y

  2. Traffic Safety Facts. Distracted Driving 2018. (2020, Apr).
    https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812926

  3. Driving Risk Classification based on Experts Evaluation. ResearchGate. (2010, July).
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/224167104_Driving_Risk_Classification_based_on_Experts_Evaluation

  4. Crashes by Time of Day and Day of Week. Injury Facts. (2022).
    https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/motor-vehicle/overview/crashes-by-time-of-day-and-day-of-week/

  5. Table 39. FBI. (2019).
    https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2019/crime-in-the-u.s.-2019/topic-pages/tables/table-39

  6. Licensed Drivers by Age and Sex. United States Department of Transportation. (2022).
    https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ohim/onh00/bar7.htm

  7. Teen Driving Risk Awareness. Michigan. (2022).
    https://www.michigan.gov/sos/0,4670,7-127-1627_60169_60179—,00.html

  8. 5 Tips For Defensive Driving Geico. (2022).
    https://www.geico.com/living/driving/auto/car-safety-insurance/defensive-driving/