Your driver's license gives you the legal right to drive. In return, you're expected to obey the relevant traffic laws. One way that many states keep track of your driving history is to assign points to your license if you get a ticket for a moving violation. Insurance companies also use their own internal systems to record policyholders' infractions. These points systems are designed to encourage safe driving behavior and discourage the opposite. Accumulating too many points could result in your license being suspended or revoked, or your insurance premiums increased. Here's what you need to know about how driver's license points work.
- Many states use a points system to record drivers' moving violations.
- Insurance companies can also use their own proprietary points systems to monitor their policyholders' driving history.
- Incurring too many points could cause you to lose your driver's license or pay more for car insurance.
- Your state may offer you a points reduction for taking a safe driving course.
Points Vary by the Seriousness of the Violation
Driver's license point systems are designed to make it easier for states and insurance companies to spot high-risk drivers. At the state level, points can be assigned to your driving record if you're ticketed for certain types of moving violations. The number of points you're assigned can vary based on the nature of the violation.
In New York, for example, driving one to 10 miles per hour over the posted speed limit can add three points to your record. Reckless driving, improper use of a cellphone while driving, and failing to stop for a school bus are all five-point violations. Your state's department of motor vehicles (DMV) may explain its points system on its website.
Some States Don't Assign Points
States aren't required to assign points for driving infractions. These states don't use a points-based system to keep track of your driving history:
- Rhode Island
However, those states may still monitor your driving record and keep track of the number of tickets you earn.
Not All Traffic Violations Incur Points
Some infractions won't result in any points against your driver's license. For example, parking violations may not count toward your points total, depending on the state where you live.
You can, however, still be ticketed for minor violations. You'd have to pay the ticket, even if no points are assigned to your driving record. And getting a ticket could potentially increase your car insurance rates.
Earning Too Many Points Can Result in a Suspended License
Generally, you have to be convicted of a moving violation for points to be assigned to your license. If you incur an excessive number of points in a specific time period, your state's DMV can temporarily suspend your license. The number of points required to earn a suspension and the window of time for doing so varies by state.
In New York, for example, your cumulative points total is based on the most recent 18 months of driving history. If you reach 11 points, your license could be suspended. Georgia, on the other hand, looks at 24 months of driving history and requires 15 points for a suspension. And in North Carolina, your license can be suspended if you earn 12 points over a three-year period.
The length of time that a suspension remains in place can also vary by the state and whether it's your first or a subsequent suspension. And, again depending on the state you're licensed in, points can stay on your record for up to 10 years. You can check the number of points you've earned against your license online if your state's DMV maintains digital driving records and makes them available.
Traffic violations that occur in a different state from the one you're licensed in can still be attributed to your driving record and included in your points total.
Serious Violations Can Cause Your License to Be Revoked
Some moving violations are deemed more serious than others and can mean a higher number of points. If you're convicted of a serious violation, your license could be revoked rather than suspended. And a revocation can happen automatically if you're convicted of certain violations.
In the District of Columbia, for example, your license is automatically revoked for any of the following violations, each of which earns 12 points:
- Leaving the scene of an accident that results in an injury (hit and run)
- Fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer
- Aggravated reckless driving
- Operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Committing a felony involving the use of a motor vehicle
In addition to losing your driver's license, being convicted of a serious driving offense can result in imprisonment and/or fines.
Insurance Companies Can Have Their Own Points Systems
While insurance companies may follow the same points system established by your state's motor vehicle department, they don't have to. Instead, insurers may use proprietary points systems to assign points for different driving violations.
Points assigned by an insurance company won't cause you to lose your license. But they can lead to an increase in your insurance premiums or even result in your policy being canceled if you accumulate an excessive number of them.
Some insurance companies may be more lenient than others when it comes to assigning points. Allstate, for example, offers accident forgiveness for your first accident, even if you're at fault.
You May Be Able to Have Your Points Reduced
Some states offer ways to reduce the number of points on your driving record that are counted toward suspension. The points you've accumulated aren't erased from your record, but your total number of points will be reduced for suspension calculations.
Typically, getting points reduced involves completing a safety course. In New York, for example, you can get up to four points reduced for completing a defensive driving/accident prevention course. Georgia removes up to seven points every five years for taking a certified driver improvement course.
Note that reducing points through a state program may not lead to any reduction in your car insurance rates.
How to Lower Your Car Insurance Rates
If your auto insurance premiums have gone up because of a traffic violation, there are some things you can do to try to reduce them.
For example, you could:
- Ask about discounts. You may be able to get a discount on your premiums by bundling your car, homeowners, or other insurance policies with one company or opting for paperless billing.
- Increase your deductibles. Opting for higher deductibles on your policy could result in a lower total premium. Just be sure you have the funds available to cover your deductibles in case you're in an accident.
- Improve your credit. Working on raising your credit score could lead to lower insurance rates. If your score has recently seen a jump, ask your insurance company to consider rescoring your policy.
- Shop around. Comparing car insurance rates from different companies can help you find the best policy for your needs and budget. Consider both the premiums and deductibles involved to make a fair cost comparison.