How do Traffic Violation Points Affect my Driver's License?

Traffic violation demerit point systems, license suspensions, and insurance rates.

Question

I recently got a ticket for running a stop sign. Will a conviction add demerit points to my driving record? And how do points affect my license and insurance rates?

Answer

Traffic violation point systems. In most states, a moving violation—such as running a stop sign—will add demerit points to your driving record. Basically, point systems are used by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to penalize repeat traffic offenders. Each traffic violation is assigned a numerical value, with more serious offenses being more points than minor offenses. However, demerit points don't stay on your record forever—usually, the points for a violation are deleted after one, two, or three years (depending on the state).

The consequences for accumulating too many points vary by state. However, states typically impose progressively severe penalties as a driver accrues points. For example, a driver might:

  • get a warning letter at six points,
  • have to complete a defensive driving course at nine points, and
  • face a six-month license suspension at 12 points.

In states that use demerit points, the specifics of how the system works are normally posted on the DMV's website.

Points and insurance premiums. Insurance rates tend to rise as a driver acquires points. But it's not exactly because of the points. Insurance companies make rate decisions based on how much risk they believe a driver poses. A person's driving record factors into risk. However, there are lots of other factors—like age and accident history—that insurance companies take into consideration.

Traffic school option. Lots of states allow eligible motorists to avoid demerit points by completing traffic school. If you're worried about points going on your record, traffic school is worth looking into.

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