There are two kinds of “points” related to owning, driving and insuring a car.
One kind of point is distributed and tracked by your state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Car insurance companies manage the other kind of point.
The points given by a state's DMV usually won't impact your auto insurance rates — or at least they won’t do so directly. Points tied to an insurance provider can affect rates or premiums, though. For example, if you cause an accident, not only may it result in points being added to your record, but it’ll probably prompt your premium to go up, too.
In this article, we’ll explain:
- The different kinds of driver’s license points
- How driver’s license points can increase car insurance rates
- How long driver’s license points stay on your record
- How to reduce driver’s license points
What are driver’s license points?
You might get two different kinds of driver’s license points, sometimes called insurance points, after certain traffic violations or infractions. Your state DMV may add points to your record and so may your car insurance provider.
These points don't impact your ability to keep driving and maintain reasonably priced or even cheap car insurance equally.
Here’s what you need to know about the different kinds of points that can be added to your driver’s license or record after a ticket, accident or other incident.
What are insurance points and how do they work?
The point systems operated by insurers differ from company to company, but they all have the same purpose. They track your driving performance and then use that information to raise your car insurance rates if you get a ticket or if you’re convicted of various driving infractions.
Insurance companies don’t make these points or systems available to the public, so it's hard to get too specific about how a particular violation might affect your premium. That said, a good rule of thumb is the more serious the driving offense, the more points your provider will add to your insurance record — and the more your premium could increase.
Some insurers give one point to drivers who get a ticket for going one to 10 miles per hour over the speed limit, for instance. If you're caught going 11 to 20 mph over the limit, they might give you two points. If you go 40 or more miles per hour over the limit, you may have five or more points added to your record.
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What are DMV points and how do they work?
Forty-one states currently have some sort of points system in place to track driving infractions. They do this to help determine if they should suspend or revoke your driver’s license or otherwise penalize you.
As for how DMV points systems work, each state has its own rules about how many points it’ll add to your record for a particular offense. They also have their own rules about how many points can be on your driver’s license before action is taken.
In general, the more severe the violation, the more points your state DMV is likely to add to your driving record.
Rack up too many points in too short of a time and you may need to complete a defensive driving course. You might even need to kiss your license goodbye — at least for a while.
How do driver’s license points impact car insurance rates?
Having even one point on your record because of a ticket or accident can raise your auto insurance rates.
How much could one point or violation increase your car insurance premium? We compared rates at 10 top insurance companies and found that a single traffic incident prompted Nationwide to raise our sample driver’s premium by 10% at the low end. At the high end, Allstate and Progressive raised our sample driver’s premium by 38% after reporting a single incident.
|Insurance company||Rate increase|
|Note: Average rate increases are based on non-binding estimates provided by Quadrant Information Services. Your rates may vary.|
DMV points usually won't cause your car insurance rates to go up directly. Still, the DMV and insurance point systems are pretty closely related.
If you do something that causes your state’s DMV to add points to your driving record, it will often cause your car insurance provider to add points to your insurance record, too. And those insurance points may lead to a premium increase.
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Does my insurance company know about every ticket or driving violation?
If you get a citation or ticket for a minor moving violation, your insurer may not notice for some time. This means it probably won’t impact your car insurance premium right away.
Many insurance companies aren't interested in paying the fee that's required to access a person's motor vehicle record (MVR). And they need to access your MVR to find out about your speeding citation or other infractions.
Most insurers won’t check your record until your policy is up for renewal. Or they’ll wait to check it until you increase your coverage or you buy a high-performance vehicle. If none of those events happen, your insurance company might only review your MVR every 18 months to two years.
Because of this, your best bet is to sit tight and do nothing after you get a ticket. This includes switching providers. Doing so will prompt your insurer to look at your MVR, and that could cause your premium to go up.
Does every ticket or traffic infraction add points to my record?
Non-moving violations like parking tickets or citations linked to broken headlights shouldn’t result in points being added to your record.
More serious offenses like drunk driving also may not result in points being added to your record. The reason: in most states, the DMV skips a step and automatically suspends driver’s licenses after DUI convictions.
How long do driver’s license points stay on my record?
In most states, points added to your license last for two or three years. There are plenty of exceptions, though. In Nevada, for instance, points associated with minor traffic violations only stay on a driver's record for a year. Also, in California, points tied to DUIs or hit-and-run incidents stick around for 10 years.
The differences in state laws can be subtle. As a result, check with your DMV if you want to know exactly how long a speeding ticket will stay on your record or how it handles driver’s license points in other situations.
How can I reduce my driver’s license points?
One way to reduce the points on your driver’s license or insurance record is to wait the required amount of time for the points to disappear.
Beyond that, you may be able to clear your record of traffic infractions by completing a defensive driving course. In some cases, you have to go through one of these classes shortly after you receive a citation. It might even keep the citation from ever appearing on your record. An added bonus of traffic school: it could lower your car insurance premium.
Another way to reduce the impact of driver’s license points is to take your ticket to court. Fighting a ticket or citation in court can get the charges against you dropped entirely. No points whatsoever would be added to your record in this situation. In other situations, though, it could result in the number of points being reduced in some way. This should still benefit both your license and your wallet. Fewer points typically mean less of a hit to your auto insurance rates.
How can I find out how many license points are on my driving record?
Go to your state's DMV website and look for a link to check the status of your driver's license. Have your driver's license number ready. You’ll need it to check your driving record. You’ll likely be asked for your name, birth date and Social Security number, too.
Are points added to my license if I'm caught texting while driving?
There are 17 states, as well as Washington, D.C., that consider texting while driving a moving violation. If you live in one of them, it may add points to your license or record if you’re ticketed for texting.
The states that currently consider texting while driving a moving violation are: Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, New Jersey, North Dakota, Nevada, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
Are points added to my license if I’m cited for not wearing a seatbelt?
Do you live in New York? If so, were you cited because a child under 16 was in the car with you without wearing a seatbelt? In that case, the state might add points to your license as a result of that offense.
If you live in another state, or if you were the one not wearing a seatbelt, you should be in the clear. But check with your state's DMV if you want to be sure.
Will points be added to my license if I drive without proof of insurance?
Where you live can affect whether an infraction results in points added to your driving record. Let’s say you live in Maryland and can’t provide proof of insurance after you’re pulled over for some reason. The state would add points to your record in this instance. Even if you don’t live in a state that uses points, you may still face fines or other penalties for driving without proof of insurance.
Will points be added to my license if a camera catches me running a red light?
Some states will only add points to your driving record if an officer pulls you over and tickets you for running a red light. Other states, like Arizona, will also put points on your record if a red-light camera catches you.
How many points does it take to get my driver's license suspended?
The number of points needed to suspend your license varies from state to state. Review your state's DMV website for more information on how its point system works. It will tell you how many points are added to your record for certain violations.
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