10 things to know about driver's license points

Learn how driver's license points are assessed, how long they stick and how they affect your auto insurance rates.

By QuinStreet Mar 6, 2014 12:35PM

This post comes from Michelle Megna at partner site Insurance.com.

Insurance.com on MSN MoneyScoring points is a good thing, unless it's on your driving record. Still, if you know how your state's point system works, you'll have a better game plan for keeping your license -- and your auto insurance rates low. Here are 10 things every driver should know:

Woman with license © Blend Images, SuperStock1. Auto insurance companies don't rely on state motor vehicle department point systems -- they use their own.

Both state motor vehicle departments and insurance companies use point systems to track driving performance, but they are separate assessments. DMV points are applied when you are convicted of certain traffic violations. If you accumulate too many points within a certain period of time, your license is typically suspended or revoked.

Insurers don't generally pay much attention to DMV points because they use their own point system when deciding how much to raise your rate. Based on the infraction, your rates rise by a predetermined amount at certain thresholds.

"For example, one Minnesota insurer assigns 4 points to a chargeable accident with a claim of $750 or more and 3 points to a speeding conviction for 10 mph over the limit. Its surcharge schedule shows the rate for a driver with 7 points would be multiplied by 1.27 -- that is, a 27 percent increase," says Penny Gusner, consumer analyst for CarInsurance.com.

2. Not all states use point systems.

There are nine states that don’t use points to keep track of bad drivers, but that doesn't mean you're off the hook if you rack up violations. These states simply monitor your driving record to determine if your license should be suspended or taken away. For instance, in Oregon, if you have four accidents or four convictions -- or a combination that totals four -- in a 24-month period, you lose your license for 30 days. And because auto insurers review your driving record, violations can affect your rates.

States that don't currently have a driver’s license points system are:

  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Washington
  • Wyoming 

3. Violation points add up and can result in losing your license.

Most moving violations result in points on your record. For example, reckless driving, speeding, illegal turns, not making a complete stop, drunk driving and at-fault accidents all incur points. Each state assesses points under its own laws, but the more serious the violation, the more points you get. Penalties for too many violations or accidents on your record vary greatly from state to state.

In California, points ranging from zero to 3 are assigned based on the severity of an offense. Your license will be suspended for six months and you'll be on probation for a year if you get:

  • 4 points in 12 months
  • 6 points in 24 months
  • 8 points in 36 months

4. Some violations don't trigger points, but you still have to pay the ticket – and insurance increase.

In general, non-moving violations and minor offenses will not result in a point assessment. That means parking tickets and fix-it tickets for things like broken lights will not add points, though you still have to pay the fine. In some states, though, serious violations such as DUI mean an automatic license suspension, so no points are given, but your auto insurance rates will certainly go up. For instance, an Insurance.com analysis found that a ticket for DUI means an average rate increase of 19 percent.

5. Texting tickets can ring up driving points.

Forty-one states ban texting while driving, but less than half consider texting behind the wheel a moving violation. If you're ticketed in a state where texting violations add points to your driving record or are considered moving violations, an insurer may raise your premiums upon review of your driving record.

States with a texting law specifying that violations add points and/or is considered a moving violation include:

  • Alabama: 2 points
  • Colorado: 1 point
  • District of Columbia: 1 point and is a moving violation; 3 points if it is judged to have caused an accident.
  • Florida: 3 points and moving violation for second ticket within five years; 2 points if texting ticket received in school safety zone; 6 points if found that unlawful use of wireless communications device results in a car crash
  • Georgia: 1 point
  • Kentucky: 3 points
  • Maryland: 1 point and a moving violation; 3 points if the texting contributed to an accident
  • Missouri: 2 points
  • Nebraska: 3 points  
  • New York: 5 points
  • New Jersey: 3 points for third offense
  • North Dakota:  moving violation
  • Nevada: first offense not considered a moving violation; repeat offenses add 4 points
  • Vermont: 2 points for first offense and 5 points for a subsequent offense
  • Virginia: 3 points
  • West Virginia: 3 points for third offense
  • Wisconsin: 4 points

6. Points can stick to your record for one to 10 years, depending on the violation and your state laws.

In many states, driving record points dog you for two to three years for lesser offenses, but there are exceptions. For instance, in Virginia and Michigan, points stick for two years from the date of conviction. In California, points for minor offenses remain on your record for three years, but DUI and hit-and-run points last for 10 years. In Nevada, points stay on your record for just a year, but major offenses including DUI result in automatic license suspension, rather than points. 

7. If you get a ticket and points on your license, there are ways to ease the insurance pain.

Many states allow you to take a defensive driving course to dismiss a violation before it shows up on your record, with the exception of major offenses such as DUI. Rules vary so check with your state insurance commission to find out details. In Virginia, drivers also earn "safe driving points" in addition to demerit points. Safe driving points are assigned for each full calendar year that you hold a valid Virginia driver's license and drive without any violations or suspensions. You can accumulate a total of five safe driving points and you may use these safe driving points to offset demerit points.

8. Some states assign license points even if you're not driving a car.

In Michigan, if you are convicted of DUI on a snowmobile or other off-road recreational vehicle, points can  haunt your driving record.

9. When children are involved, seatbelt tickets may mean points.

You won't typically get points if cited for failing to wear your seatbelt, but in New York, if you are ticketed for having a child in the car under age 16 without a seatbelt, the violation adds 3 points to your driving record.

10. In some states, if you're busted by a red-light camera, you get a ticket but not points.

Typically, if you get a ticket for running a red light, you also get driver's license points. But in some states, if you are caught by a red-light camera, you don't get points. Other states tack on points for running red lights regardless of whether a camera or a cop busts you.

For example, Arizona assesses 2 points for red-light tickets, from either a camera or law enforcement. New Jersey, however, tacks on 2 points only if you get a traditional ticket from a police officer.

More from Insurance.com:


Mar 6, 2014 3:55PM
Red light cameras should be outlawed.  The reason is simple.  An officer has to verify the offense.  An officer!  Not a committee, but one officer.  If it is a fellow law enforcement officer, family, friend, judge, lawyer, city councilman, city clerk, probate office employee, jail personnel, game warden, state trooper, state legislator, senator or a host of other influential people, no ticket is assigned.   Now, to make it fair, there should be a committee of peers, similar to a jury selection, who are not entirely law enforcement personnel to decide who gets a ticket.  I think it should be an odd number of people, for example seven.  That would make sure no tie is gained.  As it is, t here is too much room for corruption.
Mar 6, 2014 4:56PM
I live in the New York Metro area and not only do you have to drive for yourself,  you have to assess the idiots driving around you as I have seen people eating, shaving, putting on make up, reading the newspaper, texting, having sex or looking everywhere but the road they are on and they are traveling...not stopped!
Mar 6, 2014 3:47PM
I think penalties of both insurance increase and payment of fine for tickets are Double Jeopardy which is unfair and unjust... 
Mar 6, 2014 7:38PM
No matter what anyone tells you traffic citations are as much about city and county revenue as they are about public safety.  Yes most are given to those who put others at risk but there are also things such as speed traps where you can be ticketed on a straight piece of highway with limited access when there is almost no traffic in sight.  I received a ticket in Georgia about 20 years ago where the speed limit signs were portable and had been placed on a stretch of road leaving a small town (name not mentioned on purpose) just an hour or so before I passed and they lowered the speed limit from 55 to 35.  I knew the signs were not there before as I entered town to eat dinner but as I left to go back out to the interstate there they were.  I asked the officer about why their signs were portable when there was no construction or other reason for their presence and he tried to say it was due to rush hour traffic.  The town's total population was less than 12,000 and there were only a half dozen cars on the road at the time.  The officer stopped me and a traveling salesman and we both had out of state plates.  Gee!  Imagine that.  Not much chance of a court appearance eh?  Revenue baby.  Revenue.   
Mar 6, 2014 6:32PM
Many years ago, during an ice storm, I slid on ice at 2 MPH, and hit the back of a cop car.  He and I looked at both cars and determined no damage occurred.  I wish I had had a camera because later, I was looking at my insurance record, and discovered that that politce department had submitted a $1000+ claim to my insurance carrier.  I told the company that there was no damage to either car, and I took my car to them to show I had no damage.  I guess I should be glad the Officer didn't get whiplash too.  I bypass that town 100% now, no matter what the weather is. 
'World Trade Center cross' fight continues as atheist group appeals ruling.........

Off topic, but MSN in their infinite wisdom would not let people post comments on this so I found this spot to be as good as any.


................and atheists wonder why they are hated.

Mar 6, 2014 4:18PM
Do not forget America that increasing insurance for any fault is unconstitutional because a private sector gets involved in punishing citizens. Plus it is triple jeopardy. The best thing to do is to let citizens (state governments) of each state punish violators to the full extent to benefit community and plaintiffs. When someone gets a ticket for speeding they may be fined $30 ~100 for first time and some points. But the insurance companies get to make 100 times of that. Instead let the states increase the penalty and outlaw insurance increase. That way states coffer gets the money and hopefully citizens of the sates are compensated and stand to benefit.
Mar 6, 2014 5:45PM
The illegals that ride around here don't have to worry about points...they have no license and if they get caught nothing happens...they either just start driving a different car or go to another lawn mowing company to work under a different name. No problem....
Mar 6, 2014 5:45PM
There is only one way to describe driving in New York City. "Just remember that you have to earn every inch of roadway that you want to use"
Mar 6, 2014 5:28PM
Having worked in the driver's license division for almost four years and in the court system for almost 24 years, I can say that if you accrue 12-14 points within a two year period, you lose your license for 60 days in the state of Alabama. For first time offenders who have never had a ticket can qualify for defensive driving school so it won't count against your driving record and won't affect auto insurance costs. Texting is a no-no here, also with 2 point added against your driving record. The DUI's are worse and you can lose your license for 90 days for the first offense, one year for the 2nd offense with a 48 hour jail sentence and two years for the third offense. Plus, an ignition interlock device is placed in your vehicle so it will not start if you read above .08% with a $75 fee added each month. Our state gets 3/4 of the money the cities collect on court cost and the cities get the rest and all of the fines. It has become a money maker for the State of Alabama and to each of their agencies who receives this money. The cities only get the smaller portion. Some who receive multiple tickets are referred to probation services if the city has a contract with them at a monthly fee of $35 which drives the costs higher. Defendants find themselves accumulating hundreds of dollars on these offenses over a period of time. I can say that can cost a person a lot of money and his license and possibly jail time if he fails to pay his fines or fails to appear in court.
Mar 6, 2014 5:42PM
If you do the crime it will cost you more than a Dime. Drive Safely
Insurance companies, in Florida such as one well known carrier , for instance,  will cancel your insurance if you have had one at fault accident, such as following too closely, resulting in a claim by the other person, even if no injury, with minimal damage, simply because you have also then had the misfortune to have been involved in two subsequent   incidents, one involving your car being struck in a Bank parking lot while you were legally parked, as  you were inside the bank, but the  the driver left the scene, and you filed a claim for repairs, which is the ostensible purpose of insurance.   The final insult,  because your were in heavy traffic  on I95, and a truck ahead of you in the same lane looses its  improperly secured  load, which falls onto the highway .  Because of traffic in both lanes, you can't move over, and your car hits the large wooden crate, causing 5K worth of damage. The truck keeps going, and your car dies because of damage, 

 Both of these subsequent accidents were not your fault, both resulted in no charges against you, yet this same well known carrier refuses to renew your policy, shows  it as cancelled because of excessive claims, deliberately down grading you, and that cancellation and downgrade  results in your insurance rates doubling.  When challenged on it, they steadfastly then refuse to correct their action.     It is one thing to decline to renew a policy, another to deliberately downgrade the driver, insuring that their rates will  double with other carriers
. The worse part is this same carriers corporate motto is-- to paraphrase:  "We just don't do what is  legal, we do what is right".  

Bottom line, points on your license are far from the only issue you have to deal with once you are forced to make a claim, regardless of your fault.    Insurance companies can penalize you substantially for the mistakes of other drivers, and there is nothing you can do about it, but pay the higher premiums, as state law requires you to maintain automobile insurance on your vehicle, or loose your license.

Mar 6, 2014 5:03PM
There are all ways to earn points,this is not the best for sure.But overall I think it fair you have to be careful driving ,and you more than likely will not get point against you.
Mar 6, 2014 5:20PM
Yes we all know Michigan SUCKS like that.
Mar 6, 2014 8:58PM
it is a old thing called strong arm protection as in if u dont pay to have this when we chatch you we will fine and or lock you up
Mar 6, 2014 10:08PM
in the 1920's a judge with brains warned that unless moving violations were treated like any other crime - misdemeanors or felonies - there would be carnage on the roads in the future, with more and faster cars. sadly, he was right. traffic tickets are a joke - people just keep driving after their license or insurance is lifted. they wouldn't be able to drive while in jail. why should a car pilot get any different treatment than an airline pilot who endangers the public? we wouldn't stand for 35,000 flying deaths a year, why do we stand it from bad car drivers??
Mar 7, 2014 12:17PM
with the government involved and making all health isnsurance equal, why dont they regulate car insurance and everyone pays the same rate???  after all they keep saying health insurance is like car insurance  right?  and what is really insured the car or the person????  just more corrupt government ideas..  after all we all pay for the roads in our properety tax so why are we mandated to have car insurance  ( unless you are illegal). we pay for the roads in gas tax for our boat and lawnmower gas . then pay for it in local and fed tax, then car tag s and registration.. we get soaked  then the insurance companies some in a rob us and then fines   what a scam
Mar 6, 2014 7:03PM

I hate red light cameras and the corruption they usually represent.  But lately I find myself wishing our city would bring them back.  Why?




Imagine sitting at a light waiting to go through a large intersection and watching cars turn left (that were coming from the opposite direction).  You're light turns green but no, you can't go, not for another 10-15 seconds, because every self important c0ck sucker turning left decided to blow through the turn signal after it changed red.  Not just a car or two trying to make a yellow.  I'm talking a dozen or more, long after the light was red, long after your light turned green.


phuck these stupid people.  I hope they all get tickets.  bring back the red light cameras for left turns in ABQ.  Not speed cameras, not usual intersection red light cameras.  NOPE.  Just for the left turn ****s that I deal with 10 times every commute.

IN ALL states, a Jaywalking ticket will NOT result in points against your driving record, BUT - in almost ALL states, your insurance company will take it as a point against you.
Mar 7, 2014 1:30PM

If this happens, then you get this.....if this happens, then this......

Too much ****.

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