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Surcharges and Auto Insurance

Mass. RMV Q&A

Insurance companies in Massachusetts use the Safe Driver Insurance Plan (SDIP) to calculate automobile insurance premiums. The intent of this plan is to encourage safe driving by rewarding drivers with clean records and penalizing drivers whose records contain surchargeable events such as at fault accidents, DUI convictions, and convictions for reckless driving, negligent operation, and similar offenses.

The Massachusetts Merit Rating Board administers and operates the Safe Driver Insurance Plan and it is charged with maintaining accurate driving records for Massachusetts license holders. The system was previously based on “steps” and it is now based on “points.” Major traffic violations such as drunk driving, leaving the scene, refusal to stop for a law enforcement officer, driving while suspended or revoked and some similar motor vehicle related crimes will result in a 5 point SDIP assessment.

Minor traffic violation such as speeding, failure to stay within marked lanes, failure to stop for a red light or stop sign, and a wide variety of other civil motor vehicle infractions which are also referred to as moving violations will result in a SDIP assessment of 2 points.

At fault accidents will result in assessments of 3 or 4 SDIP points, depending on the amount of damage. If your insurance company pays out claims in excess of $2,000.00, 4 points will be assessed. If the payout is $2,000.0 or less, the accident will be considered “minor” and 2 points will be assessed.

There are some provisions of the plan that mitigate its harsh impact. For example, if you have no surchargeable events on your record with in the past 5 years and you receive a citation for a civil motor vehicle infraction, you will not be assessed points (surcharged) for that civil automobile law violation.

When calculating insurance premiums, the Safe Driver Insurance Plan generally has a 6-year lookback period. However, if you have 3 or fewer surchargeable events on your driving record during the 5-year period immediately prior to the commencement date of your automobile insurance policy, you have a minimum of 3 years of driving experience, and your most recent surchargeable event is more than 3 years old, 1 SDIP point will be dropped from your record for every year that you satisfy the above-listed requirements.

You can help maintain a clean SDIP record by driving safely and appealing any citations or surcharge notices that you receive. You have 4 days to request a Clerk-Magistrate hearing for a criminal automobile law violation. You have 20 days to appeal a Civil Motor Vehicle Infraction (such as speeding), and you have 30 days to appeal a motor vehicle accident surcharge. A lawyer may be able to help you with these appeals.

It is important to realize that just because “points” may drop off of your SDIP record, the underlying offenses, convictions, and violations which resulted in the assessment of those points will remain on your driving record permanently. When it comes to Massachusetts Driving Records, there’s no such thing as “sealing” or “expungement.” Massachusetts has lifetime lookback and the Registry is legally required to maintain permanent records.

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