Reducing Suspended Drivers and Alternative Reinstatement Best Practices Edition 3


39 percent of all driving privilege suspensions are for non-highway safety reasons.

At its inception, driver’s license suspension aimed to address poor driving behavior. However, its current use extends beyond highway safety concerns and encompasses non-highway safety obligations. Drivers can have their licenses suspended for reasons unrelated to highway safety. These include failure to pay fines, failure to appear in court, non-driving-related drug violations, school truancy, library fines, parking violations, and more. This article explores the implications of expanding the scope of driver’s license suspension and argues for the need to consider alternative approaches. By analyzing driving records from eight states between 2002 and 2006, researchers uncovered significant differences in behavior between drivers suspended for non-highway safety reasons and those suspended for highway safety reasons. The results challenge the notion of treating these two groups as homogenous when formulating highway safety policies. The consequences of doing so have increased administrative burdens for motor vehicle agencies and diverted law enforcement and court resources away from more serious crimes. The authors suggest that rather than implementing a one-size-fits-all policy, it is essential to adopt a more nuanced approach that acknowledges the differences in behavior and underlying factors contributing to non-compliance.

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Key Findings:

  • Approximately 34 percent of drivers suspended for highway safety reasons commit a moving violation while under suspension, compared to only about 7 percent of drivers suspended for non-highway safety reasons.
  • From 2002 to 2006, the proportion of drivers suspended for non-highway safety reasons increased from 29 percent to 39 percent. 
  • Survey results from 69 jurisdictions found that failure to pay a court fine or traffic ticket and failure to appear for a scheduled court date are two of the top five non-safety reasons for the suspension.
  • It took 22 employees and $73,000 for form and postage costs to communicate with drivers for non-highway safety suspensions by the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles in 2017.
  • Five years after ending the suspensions of driving privileges for non-moving violations, Washington experienced 12,000 fewer suspensions per month and a 51 percent decrease in total FTA suspensions.
  • Every year, the Washington State Patrol expends 31,587 personnel hours–equivalent to 15 full-time employees– to arrest and adjudicate drivers caught driving while suspended for non-highway safety reasons.


  • Repeal laws requiring the suspension of driving privileges for non-highway safety reasons.
  • Implement alternative reinstatement practices to make the process quicker, such as kiosks where people under suspension can pay fines and complete their reinstatement process in one location. 
  • Incorporate a uniform procedure to determine a person’s ability to pay and allow alternative sanctions in place of license suspensions.
American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA)