November 29, 2016

A Guide to the DMV Point System

Receiving a traffic ticket is never a pleasing experience. Not only can they be costly, but they can add points to your driver’s license as well. Drivers who exceed a certain number of points face a license suspension or revocation, in addition to a potential increase in their insurance rate.

Violations That Add Points

Points are added to your license for moving violations. These are traffic violations committed by the driver while the vehicle is in motion. Although the number of points assigned for each moving violation differs from state to state, generally more points are assigned for more severe violations.

The most common moving violations that add points to your license include:

  • Speeding
  • Running a stop sign
  • Running a red light
  • Reckless driving
  • Making an illegal turn
  • Not buckling your seat belt
  • Driving under the influence
  • Driving a commercial vehicle without a valid commercial license

Violations That Don’t Add Points

There are also traffic violations that will not add points to your license. These are non-moving violations, including:

  • parking violations
  • paperwork violations (e.g., failing to renew your registration)
  • equipment violations (e.g., failing to replace a burnt-out headlight)

Note that although these will not add points to your license, you can still receive tickets for them.

State-to-State Differences

As mentioned, the number points assigned for each violation differs among states. States also have differing policies regarding the length of time points remain on your record. Generally, the more severe the traffic offense, the longer the points will remain on your record.

In California, for instance, the length of time ranges from 3 years, for violations such as speeding or failure to yield the right-of-way, to 10 years, for more severe offenses such as driving under the influence or a hit and run.

It should also be mentioned that not every state employs a points system. Currently, there are nine that do not: Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wyoming. These states track your number of violations within a designated period of time. If you exceed the state-specific limit for traffic violations within that period, then your license is suspended.

In Kansas, for instance, if you get three traffic tickets in a 12-month period, your driver’s license can be suspended for up to 1 year, with the exact duration of the suspension dependent on the types of offenses you’ve committed.

Accumulating Too Many Points

If you accumulate too many points, your license can be suspended. This means that your driving privileges are taken away for a certain period of time, after which you are allowed to drive again without having to obtain a new license (although you may be required to pay a suspension termination fee).

However, if you drive with that suspended license, and are caught, your license can be revoked. This means that after a certain period of time, you will have to apply for a new license and pass the DMV exams before your driving privileges are reinstated.

Other scenarios that can result in license revocation include:

  • Driving under the influence of drugs (including alcohol)
  • Street racing or other forms of reckless driving
  • Leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in an injury or fatality

Additionally, your license can be revoked if you are convicted of a non-driving offense, such as failing to answer a traffic summons, or a drug-related offense other than driving under the influence.

In addition to possible suspension or revocation, accumulating too many points can result in major financial losses. Traffic violations that add points to your license carry fines as well, which might be as high as several thousand dollars. Thus, being convicted of such violations on multiple occasions can hit your wallet pretty hard.

Removing Points

Working to have points removed from your license as soon as possible can help you avoid a potential suspension, as well as the other problems that can arise if you are not allowed to drive, such as missing out on activities or even losing your job because you can’t make it to work.

The most common way to have points deducted is to complete a driver safety course, which is allowed in many states. Your state’s DMV will strike a certain number of points from your record if you complete a course at an approved school. Keep in mind, though, that some states only allow drivers to deduct points this way a limited number of times within a given period.

Also, some states remove points from your driver’s license if you manage to keep a clean driving record for a specific period of time after receiving a ticket.

Driving Record Can Affect Car Insurance Premiums

Insurance companies take your driving record into account when determining your premiums. Almost all insurance providers check their current customers’ driving records on a regular basis, as well as the records of those who apply for a new policy, and use the information to adjust the rates they offer.

The general rule is that the more traffic tickets you get, the higher your premiums will be. An exception to this is being ticketed for a non-moving violation, which rarely results in increased insurance costs.

If you are convicted of a major moving violation, such as driving under the influence or reckless driving, you will certainly see increased premiums. Insurers consider drivers with such violations to be high-risk drivers, who are more likely to be involved in a collision and file a claim than drivers with cleaner records.

Regulations regarding the period of time insurance providers are allowed to look back at customers’ driving records when calculating their premiums vary from one state to another, but it’s generally between three to five years (although it can be longer). This means that any ticket you received prior to that will not affect your insurance costs.

The accumulation of tickets and points can have wide-ranging effects. You could have higher car insurance rates, lose your driving privileges and face hefty fines. It’s in your best interest to avoid committing any type of traffic violation and to keep your driving record as clean as possible.

If you do commit a violation and incur points, look into signing up for a driver safety course at a state-approved school. Not only might this help remove points from your license, but it might help you become a better and safer driver as well.

Keep Reading: Why Complex Cars Cost More to Repair
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