The violations aren’t the same in every state. Only Montana and Iowa, for example, have laws allowing state officials to revoke driver’s licenses for people who don’t pay their student loans.
The non-driving offenses are listed in a 2012 report by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, or AAMVA. Last year the group followed up with a “best practice” guide urging states to rescind the laws, which started as ways to address poor driving behavior but have turned into social conformance mechanisms.
“When licenses are suspended for social non-conformance reasons, the suspension is ‘watered down’ in value,” the AAMVA report in 2014 states. “It becomes less serious in the minds of law enforcement, the courts and the public,” with as many as three-fourths of suspended or revoked drivers continuing to drive.
In 2006, drivers suspended for social non-conformance reasons represented 29 percent of all suspended drivers, according to the AAMVA. Approximately 7 percent of drivers across the country are suspended at any given time, the group says.
“Taking away a person’s driver’s license for a non-driving related offense really amounts to extortion,” says John Bowman, a spokesman for the National Motorists Association. “It’s a way to exert pressure. The sole purpose of a driver’s license is to demonstrate that you’re a competent driver. The only reason it should be taken away is if you engage in demonstrably reckless driving behavior.”
Pulling a license for failure to pay often has the opposite effect, Bowman says. If they can’t drive, they can’t get to their job and often end up unemployed.
“They get further and further behind financially,” he says. “It really sets up a bad cycle that many people never fully recover from.”
Effect on insurance
Having a driver’s licenses suspended for something as simple as abandoning a vehicle (New York) or boating while intoxicated (Texas) can still mean the license suspension is considered a minor offense by insurance companies. Even if you get your license back, you may face higher premiums or have to work with an insurer that deals with high-risk clients.
“Any type of suspension of your driving privileges will affect your rate,” says Chrissy Nigro of Nigro Insurance Agency in Philadelphia. “Some carriers ask up front if you have ever had your license suspended.”
Rate increases vary by carrier, and higher rates can also be based on how much time has passed, Nigro says. For instance, she says, it can take 36 months for a reinstated license to show up on the motor vehicle reporting system.
Most insurance companies don’t check driving records until renewal time comes around, so having a suspended license at that time could lead to your policy not getting renewed because insurers will assume you’re driving without a license.
Even if the insurance carrier raises rates on non-moving violations, “it is typically much less of an increase than a moving violation would be, if there even is one at all,” says Christin Wiley, a personal risk advisor at William Blount & Associates in Knoxville, Tenn.
Illinois allows auto insurance policies to be canceled in the middle of the policy term if the insured’s driver’s license is suspended or revoked.
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Not Paying Child Support, Bounced Checks and Other Non-driving Violations That Can Take You Off the Road