How do points against my license affect me?

Question:

I recently got a ticket for failure to obey a road sign. I'm wondering whether this ticket will give me "points" that will affect my insurance.

Answer:

In most states, point systems purport to assign a certain number of points for each moving violation -- and running a stop sign is the very stuff of which moving violations are made. A driver who gets too many points in too short a time can lose his or her driver's license. In some states, points are also assessed for accidents, even if no court has found you to be at fault.

While the details vary from state to state, most systems typically work in one of two ways.

State system A: Each ordinary moving violation counts as a single point, but two points are assessed for speed violations that are far in excess of the speed limit. A license is suspended when a driver receives four points in a year, six in two years, or eight in three years.

State system B: Two points are assessed for minor violations such as an illegal turn or slightly exceeding the speed limit. Three, four, or five points are assigned for more serious violations, such as illegally running a stop sign or speeding. A license is suspended if a driver gets 12 points over three years.

What you need to do is check the vehicle code violation with which you are charged; it should be written on your ticket. Then call your department of motor vehicles and ask:

  1. • Will the violation add points to my record?
  2. • How many points do I already have on my record? (You may have to go into the office to get a printout of your record.)
  3. • How many points does it take to have my license taken away?

Most insurance companies regularly review your record and may raise your premium for getting a certain amount of points. Some states, such as California, do not allow insurance companies to raise your premiums for getting only one point on your record.  In other states, drivers can be assessed two different types of points, driver's license and insurance points. Call your insurance company to find out their policies.

If you are close to getting your license snatched or having your insurance premium increased, you probably want to fight the ticket. If you choose to fight it, you might want to consult the national edition of Nolo's Beat Your Ticket for some potentially winning strategies.

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