not being able to legally drive can be detrimental to a person’s finances and lifestyle. That’s why, when you have a suspended driver’s license, you’ll want to get it reinstated quickly.
You can’t completely control the timeline on reinstating your license, but there are steps you can take to help expedite the process. The first step should be to carefully read your suspension notice. Next, take a defensive driving course.2 Then, purchase an SR-22 filing on your car insurance and pay any fees related to the license suspension.3 If you can’t pay the fees outright, you may be able to set up a payment plan.4 The final step is to actually reinstate your license, and depending on where you live, this can be done in-person, online, or through the mail.
Length of Driver License Suspension
Like all aspects of suspended licenses, the length of the suspension varies from state to state. The timeline will also depend on why the license was suspended in the first place.56
Having your driver’s license suspended is not a trivial matter, and the steps for getting it back might seem cumbersome, but that’s by design. Suspensions are meant to be serious penalties with major consequences that deter drivers from losing their licenses in the first place.
Thankfully, in most cases, you’ll be able to get your license reinstated if you have enough patience. When your suspension period is nearing its end, follow these simple steps to getting it back.
Read Your Notice
First, carefully read your notice. Reading your suspension notice is a fairly obvious step in getting your driver’s license reinstated, but it’s an important one, so it’s worth reiterating as the first step. Keep this paperwork so you can use it as a reference throughout the process.
The notice will detail key aspects of your suspension, such as how long your license will be suspended. This period could range from a few months to over a year, depending on the seriousness of the infraction. If you are delinquent on a payment—such as a child support payment—your notice might stipulate that your license is suspended until you can catch up on your payments.7
To complete this step, you’ve got to actually receive your notice. Ensure that your state’s department of motor vehicles (DMV) and department of public safety both have your current address on file. It is your responsibility to keep your address up to date.
Simply changing your address at the post office might not be enough to ensure you get all of your mail. It’s best to verify your address directly with the DMV.
Take a Driving Class
Your second step should be to look into driving classes. Not all states require you to take a defensive driving course to get your driver’s license reinstated. Either way, it might be a good idea to take one, especially if your license was suspended for a driving-related reason. Not only can it help you get your license back, but once you’re driving again, a defensive driving course can help you keep your car insurance rates a little lower.8
Obtain an SR-22 Filing on Your Car Insurance
The third step is to obtain an SR-22 filing for your insurance policy. It shouldn’t be too difficult or expensive to add this filing to your policy. An SR-22 filing isn’t extra coverage, all it does is link your car insurance to the state. This link automatically informs the state if you cancel your car insurance or change vehicles.9
That’s not to say a suspended license won’t cause problems with your insurance situation. The trouble occurs when you have a preferred insurance carrier, and your violations are more than what your policy allows. If this is the case for you, it might be time to switch your car insurance over to a high-risk insurance carrier.
No Insurance? Get Covered
If you do not yet have it, you will need to get car insurance. Start by getting a minimum of two to three quotes. Ask the agent about any discounts you might qualify for such as infrequent driving, low-mileage driving, or being a member of a credit union.
Buying the bare minimum coverage is usually not enough protection for most drivers. Check the prices on different limits of liability and medical coverage. Also, do not forget to ask about different payment options. Your provider may prefer full payments, automatic payments, or paperless billing, and it may be willing to offer discounts for those payment methods.10
No Car? Find a Non-Owner SR-22
There are car insurance policies designed specifically for drivers who do not own a car and do not drive regularly. These policies provide liability-only coverage for when you drive someone else’s vehicle. It can be beneficial if you prefer to carry higher limits of liability than what your friends and family carry and if you want to keep your car insurance active while you are without a car. If the terms of your suspension require an SR-22 filing, these policies can satisfy that requirement.11
Pay the Fees
The fourth step is to settle any fees or payments related to your suspension. Regardless of why your license was suspended, you will almost certainly have to pay fees to restore the license’s status. For example, in North Carolina, drivers pay a $65 restoration fee for all licenses that were suspended for nonmedical reasons.12 Depending on the manner in which the license was suspended, North Carolinians may also pay a $50 service fee. If the suspension was related to an intoxicated driving incident, there is an additional $130 fee.
If you can’t pay the fees outright, you may be able to establish a payment plan.4
Regardless of whether or not payment plans are available, you should communicate with the DMV if you are unable to pay the fees. Simply ignoring them won’t solve your problem.
The fifth and final step is to ensure that you follow the correct process for reinstating your license. As with fees, this step varies significantly between states. The three most common ways to finalize your reinstatement are online, in-person at the DMV, or by mail. Some states, like Wisconsin, may require you to visit a DMV after starting the process online.13
There may be a waiting period after you’ve finalized your reinstatement process. For example, Iowa tells drivers to be prepared to wait up to 21 days for new licenses to be created and mailed to their homes.14 Whatever the waiting period is, be patient. Driving with a suspended license—even if you’re just a day or two away from official reinstatement—comes with hefty penalties, not to mention the delay to your reinstatement process.15