Some Pointers on Driver’s License Points

Editor’s Note: Pointers on points…this is always an important concern when fighting a speeding ticket. Here is some advice from our 2015 newsletter archive.

Some Pointers on Driver’s License Points: NMA E-Newsletter #352

One of the most common questions we get from members is how many points will a given violation add to their driving record. It’s an important question, but it’s not the only one to ask after you get a traffic ticket. You also need to know how many points it takes to trigger a license suspension.

The answers to both questions depend on what state you’re in. This is because different states use different systems for assessing points against your license, and some don’t use points at all.

Traffic violation points systems assign a certain number of points for each traffic citation based on the severity of the offense. If you’re convicted of that offense, the points go on your driving record. Accumulate enough points, and you will lose your license.

The number of points assigned per violation varies considerably from state to state, as does the threshold for suspension. In California, most violations only cost you one or two points, but you can lose your license if you accumulate four or more points over 12 months. In Wisconsin, speeding up to 10 mph over the speed limit will add three points to your record, and you will lose your license if you accumulate 12 points over a 12 month period. In Utah a speeding violation can run up to 75 points, but you won’t lose your license until you hit 300 points.

To make matters even more complicated, nine states (HI, KS, LA, MN, MS, OR, RI, WA, WY) don’t track points, but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook if you get a ticket. They still monitor your driving behavior to determine if any action against your license is warranted. In the state of Washington, for example, if you’re ticketed for six moving violations over 12 months, you’ll lose your driver’s license for 60 days.

Keep in mind that the points aren’t automatic; you have to be convicted of the offense before they apply. All the more reason to fight every ticket you get, especially if you’re driving record isn’t spotless to begin with. Points usually stay on your record for around three years, but some, like those assessed for a DUI conviction, can stay on for 10 years or more. Check your driving record routinely to see what’s on it. You can order a copy online with your state DMV for a nominal fee.

Points on your driving record can affect your insurance rates, but the relationship may not be as direct as you think. This is because insurance companies don’t necessarily pay close attention to DMV points. They instead use their own points/ratings systems to calculate rates and surcharges using data compiled from third-party sources. This explains why violations that don’t show up on your driving record, like photo-based tickets in most states, can still raise your insurance rates.

This last fact contradicts the frequently repeated statement from politicians, “safety” advocates and camera vendors that camera tickets won’t increase your insurance rates. The NMA refuted this in a prior newsletter, but it’s insightful to consider this chart from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety which lays out camera ticket penalties by state.

In states like California and Arizona where red-light camera citations carry points, there will be insurance consequences. But in states like Maryland or New York the chart notes that red-light camera tickets “may not be used by insurers.” This implies that they are used by insurers in other states. Look at Rhode Island, for example, where it states that red-light camera tickets are “not to be used by insurers until there is a final adjudication of the violation.”

So, what can you do to minimize the impact of points on your driving record and your insurance rates? Here are a few tips:

  • Learn how the point system in your state works. You can track that down on your state’s DMV website or start here.
  • Request a copy of your driving record from your DMV and from your insurance company.
  • Fight every ticket to the best of your ability.
  • If you don’t win a dismissal, try to negotiate down to a non-moving violation or see if you’re eligible to take a traffic safety course as a way to remove points from your record.
  • Check the language in your auto insurance policy which may spell out your carrier’s underwriting standards.
  • Call your insurance provider if you have questions about the impact a specific traffic citation will have on your rates.

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Leave a Comment

2 Responses to “Some Pointers on Driver’s License Points”

  1. Amy says:

    I do not see how a camera ticket can hurt your driving record, if the third-party data collector talks to your insurer, but has no clue who was driving the car. If I have a house with 8 people, they cannot prove who the driver was. This would also be a “violation” not a crash. Then again, what does a credit report have to do with driving? Those also tend to have a slew of errors on them. Mine did.

    • John Carr says:

      If there is a correlation between claims and some other factor, the insurance companies’ computers can sniff it out. Unless prohibited by state law, they can use that correlation to adjust rates. When I was in college a classmate got married and got a lower insurance rate. Young, married men were found to make fewer claims than young, unmarried men. (Where I live now sex discrimination in car insurance is illegal, even if justified by claims risk.)

      It may not matter who was driving the car when the camera flashed. Your car insurance policy in most states covers anybody driving your car. If your roommate speeds and your roommate drives your car a lot, it’s the same as if you speed.

      My suspicion is insurance companies won’t do a lot of work to track down camera tickets. The reason regular speeding tickets correlate with claims risk is, in some cases a driver catches a police officer’s eye by driving dangerously and gets a speeding ticket instead. Cameras don’t do that.