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?
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 generally assigned a numerical value, with more serious offenses being more points than minor offenses. However, some of the least serious violations sometimes don't result in any points.
With speeding violations, the number of points normally depends on the amount by which the driver exceeded the speed limit. For example, the points for a speeding ticket might be something like:
In some states, minor speeding violations (just barely over the limit) won't result in any points.
In many states, the points for a violation increase if the driver has been convicted of the same violation in the recent past.
For example, a distracted driving violation might not carry any points for a first offense but carry one point if the driver has a prior conviction within the last 12 months.
In some states, the points for a violation increase if the violation resulted in an accident that involved injuries or property damages.
For instance, a speeding ticket that would normally result in two points might carry four points if the violation resulted in injuries or property damage.
Not all traffic violations result in points on your driving record. It's common for less serious traffic offenses to carry no points. Violations that are zero-point offenses in many states include:
However, point systems vary by state. So the point value for a violation in one state might be different than it would be for the same violation in another state.
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).
Don't get tickets. The best way to keep points off your record is to avoid getting traffic tickets. But, of course, that's not always possible.
Beat the ticket in court. If you fight a ticket in traffic court and win, no points will go on your record. Points only result from convictions.
Traffic school. 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. In some states, you can even do traffic school preemptively and get points credits that will cancel out points you might get in the future.
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:
In states that use demerit points, the specifics of how the system works are normally posted on the DMV's website.
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.
Request driving record. In most states, you can find out how many points you have by requesting a copy of your driving record from the DMV. However, there's often a fee you'll have to pay for this service.
Call your insurance company. You might also be able to figure out how many points you have on your record by making a call to your insurance company.
Need a lawyer? Start here.