For many drivers, a license epitomizes freedom and autonomy.
But if you find yourself in a fender bender or with a speeding ticket on your hands, your mistakes can end up counting against you—your driving record is permanent, after all. The good news is that these offenses won’t affect you forever.
Tickets and accidents can lead to points on your license and hike up your insurance premiums. But after a certain number of years, insurance companies can’t use these offenses against you anymore. You can also limit the financial damage these rate hikes cause by using a free insurance quote comparison tool, such as Insurify, to shop around.
Most people, though, don’t fully understand how these points work. It’s no surprise why— point systems vary state to state and company to company. Whether you recently found yourself in an accident or are simply trying to take preventative measures and learn how to avoid license points, here are the most important things you should know.
1. Car insurance companies don’t use state DMV point systems.
While DMV license point systems vary state to state, car insurance companies don’t even use them. They use their own proprietary point systems to determine how much to raise your insurance premium depending on the severity of your traffic violation or ticket.
The silver lining, however, is that if you get a ticket or driving violation, you are not necessarily doomed to pay more. Because different companies weigh violations differently, if you shop around, you might find that a new company doesn’t care as much about that speeding ticket as your current provider.
2. Not all states use driver’s license points systems.
If you are trying to figure out how many points are already on your license or how many points you will get for a recent ticket, you might be surprised to learn that the following states do not use point systems.
- Rhode Island
This doesn’t mean you’re in the clear, though. These states still monitor your driving record to see if your license should be suspended or taken away. In Oregon, for example, four violations (accidents or convictions) in a two year period will cause you to lose your license for 30 days.
To learn how your state handles license points, search for your state and “driver’s license point systems.” This information can usually be found on the website of a municipal agency, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles, a law enforcement agency, or Department of Transportation.
3. License points add up and can result in you losing your license.
Points on your license can ultimately lead to license suspension or revocation, but the number of points it takes to get there varies to state. All states assess points depending on their own laws, but you can assume that the more serious the violation, the more points it will add.
For example, tickets for texting while driving incur points in most states, but the severity varies widely. In Alabama, you’ll have two points added, while in New York, the same violation will add five points.
The following table shows you how many points it takes to get your license suspended in each state. However, just because some states lack point systems doesn’t mean drivers can’t have their licenses taken away. In those states, the severity of the violation and number of violations can trigger license suspension or revocation.
|State||License Points Warranting Suspension||Time Frame|
|Arkansas||14||At any given time|
|Hawaii||No point system|
|Illinois||3 moving violations||1 year|
|Indiana||3 major offenses||10 years|
|Kansas||No point system|
|Louisiana||No point system|
|Massachusetts||12||At any given time|
|Minnesota||No point system|
|Mississippi||No point system|
|New Hampshire||12||1 year|
|New Jersey||12||At any given time|
|New Mexico||7||1 year|
|New York||11||1.5 years|
|North Carolina||12||3 years|
|North Dakota||11||At any given time|
|Oregon||No point system|
|Pennsylvania||6||At any given time|
|Rhode Island||No point system|
|South Carolina||12||At any given time|
|South Dakota||15||1 year|
|West Virginia||12||At any given time|
|Wyoming||No point system|
|Washington, D.C.||10||At any given time|
4. Not all traffic violations trigger DMV points.
Smaller violations, like parking tickets and fix-it tickets for broken tail lights or expired licenses, don’t typically add points against your license. Additionally, these are often “correctable violations,” meaning you can keep them off your record by fixing the problem and getting proof of correction signed by an authorized person, such as a DMV clerk, police officer, or court clerk.
Assuming you fix the problem, the ticket won’t go on your record, and your insurance company won’t even find out. However, if you don’t fix the problem within the allotted time, the infraction will go on your record, which could cause your insurance company to increase your rates.
5. Points stay on your record anywhere from one to 10 years, depending on the severity of your traffic violation.
Driving record points typically count against your license for two to three years for lesser offenses, and up to 10 years for more serious offenses, such as driving under the influence. The length of time during which a moving violation or collision affects your rate is called a “chargeable period,” and after that time frame, it should no longer affect your rate.
In most states, the chargeable periods are as follows:
- Moving Violation: Three years from date of offense.
- At-Fault Crashes: Three years from date of offense. After three years, an at-fault collision can still affect your insurance rates for two more years by making you ineligible for a “good driver discount.”
- DUI: Three years from the date of offense in all states except California, where it will affect your insurance rate for 10 years.
6. If you do get points, your insurance premium does not have to rise astronomically.
In almost all cases, you will pay increased insurance rates if you have points on your license. However, you can take measures to minimize the increase.
Shopping around after a ticket is smart because insurance companies don’t weigh everything the same. A ticket for texting while driving might lead to a $100 annual increase at one company, but only a $50 increase at another. Because of this, it’s smart to use an insurance quote comparison tool like Insurify to compare policies and see if you can get a better deal. Insurify is free and only takes a few minutes, so it’s always worth a shot.
7. Most states have ways for you to remove a traffic violation point or two.
Though the options for point removal vary by jurisdiction, some states allow you to attend a defensive driving course in order to have a ticket dismissed from your record. However, you do have to pass the class and it is a one-time-only fix.
Another route you can take is to ask the court to defer your ticket, which usually costs a few hundred dollars, depends on approval by a judge, and only lasts a year. If granted, this will keep the ticket off your record for a year, and if you avoid more violations during that time, the ticket will be dismissed. However, if you do get another ticket, both will hit your record and cause and major insurance cost spike.
If you believe you are not guilty or that the violation should be decreased in severity, you can opt for mitigation or contest the ticket altogether. With mitigation, you plead guilty but explain the circumstances of the ticket and ask for leniency, in which case the judge can excuse the fine, lower the fine, or leave it the same.
Contesting the ticket means you plead not guilty and argue against the ticket. This is a long-shot approach, but if successful, can lead to a reduced fine or the dismissal of a ticket.
From speeding tickets to texting while driving, you can end up with a ticket on your record in myriad ways. Usually, you can avoid them with common sense and defensive driving. But if you do end up with a tarnished record, it’s not the end of the world. You can ease the pain of an increased insurance rate by using the tips mentioned above and, in doing so, learn from your mistake and become a better driver in the process.