In sports, scoring points is a good thing. With driving, it’s not.
One way states can track unsafe driving behaviors is through a points system. Driver’s license points are negative marks on your driving record that you get when you’re convicted of a moving violation.
Those points can have an immediate and severe effect on your insurance rates and premiums, so it pays to know how much various driving infractions will cost you.
Forty-one states and the District of Columbia use a driver’s license points system. If you rack up enough points within a certain time frame, which varies by state, you can even face license suspension.
How a Driver’s License Point System Works
“The more minor or less severe an offense is, the lower the number of points you’ll get,” said Ryan Stump, North Carolina criminal defense attorney and managing partner at Randall & Stump, PLLC.
For example, if you get a ticket for going five miles over the speed limit, you might only earn one or two points. On the other hand, a more serious offense could lead to automatic suspension of your license.
Here are some common violations and points in the states of New York, North Carolina, and Florida.
|Violation||New York||North Carolina||Florida|
|Speeding||3-11 points||2-3 points||3-4 points|
|Reckless driving||5 points||4 points||4 points|
|Failure to yield or stop (traffic light, school bus, pedestrian, etc.)||3-5 points||3 points||3-4 points|
|Failure to leave information after an at-fault accident||3 points||3 points||6 points|
|Cell phone use/texting||5 points||N/A||3 points|
|Driving without insurance||N/A||3 points||Suspension|
|Failure to use a child restraint||3 points||2 points||3 points|
|Number of points leading to license suspension||11 points in an 18-month period||12 points within a three-year period||12 points within 12 months|
In most states, the following lead to automatic license suspension:
- Driving with a suspended license
- Speeding to elude arrest
- Highway racing
- Manslaughter/negligent homicide
How to Check How Many Points You Have
Consult your state’s DMV website to view or print a copy of your driving record.
Your driving record will not only show points levied based on violations in your home state but also in other states where you’ve driven. “Most states are part of what’s called an interstate compact, so they report offenses out of state to your issuing state,” said Stump.
Too Many Points
In most states, if you reach the maximum point threshold within a period of time, your license will be suspended. The length of a driver’s license suspension depends on the reason for revocation and the laws in your state, said Stump.
“Let’s say you’ve accumulated 12 points just based on a bunch of traffic tickets. Your first revocation is only supposed to be up to 60 days,” says Stump. You then would go to the DMV and pay a fee to reinstate your license, he says. However, Stump noted that if you get your license revoked and then drive anyway, you could accumulate points that could lead to a three-year or indefinite suspension. In that case, you’d need to schedule a DMV hearing to get your license reinstated.
How Driver’s License Points Affect Insurance
It’s impossible to know exactly how license points will affect your insurance payments, because every insurer has its own methods of evaluating points and rates, says Laura Sawka, account manager at Olson Insurance Group.
“It’s not a flat figure or percentage” Sawka says. In addition, some providers have accident forgiveness policies which may lessen the impact of some driver’s license points.
In general, a premium increase will depend on the type and severity of the violation, the amount of time that passed since your last infraction, and the state you live in. For example, if you have full coverage, you can generally expect about a 20% increase on average from a single speeding ticket, according to a coverage.com analysis of data from Quadrant Information Services.
Certain violations that result in license suspension, such as driving without insurance or driving under the influence, will also require your insurance company to file an SR-22 with the state DMV. This designates you as a “high risk” driver, which can significantly raise your premiums.
Do Points Expire On Your License?
Technically, points are reflected on your record indefinitely, according to Stump. But most states have a lookback period, so only points during that period are counted towards your total. That window is typically two to three years for minor offenses, but some states have lookback periods as long as ten years for a DUI/DWI charge.
As an example, let’s say you got a speeding ticket in 2015. Two points were levied on your driving record. After 2018, though the ticket would still be on your record, the slate would be essentially wiped clean. You’d have to rack up 12 new points to face license suspension.
Some states have point reduction programs, which allow you to take a driving course to remove points from your record.
It’s best to be proactive and practice safe driving habits to avoid points in the first place. But if you’ve already received points or facing conviction, you may want to seek legal help.
For more information on how driver’s license points are assessed in your state. Here is a complete list with links to each state’s point system. Note that some states do not have a points system.
Drivers License Points by State
|Alabama||Georgia||Mayland||New Jersey||South Carolina|
|Alaska||Hawaii (No point system)||Massachusetts||New Mexico||South Dakota|
|Arkansas||Illinois||Minnesota (No point system)||North Carolina||Texas|
|California||Indiana||Mississippi (No point system)||North Dakota||Utah|
|Connecticut||Kansas (No point system)||Montana||Oklahoma||Virginia|
|Delaware||Kentucky||Nebraska||Oregon (No point system)||Washington (No point system)|
|District of Columbia||Louisiana (No point system)||Nevada||Pennsylvania||West Virginia|
|Florida||Maine||New Hampshire||Rhode Island (No point system)||Wisconsin|
|Wyoming (No point system)|