Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health insuran...

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Chris Harrigan has an economic degree from Limestone College and an MBA from Clemson University. He previously managed auto insurance claims for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Currently, he is using his business and insurance expertise to provide insurance data analysis and visualizations to enhance the user experience.

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Reviewed by Chris Harrigan
Former Auto Insurance Claims Manager

UPDATED: Aug 12, 2021

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Key takeaways...

  • Every state has specific laws and/or guidelines which determine how long points stay on your record for
  • Anytime a traffic violation occurs and you are ticketed the offense may be subject to points
  • Some states, such as Virginia, actually offer safe driving points as awards to drivers who are accident and ticket free every year

How long points stay on your driving record is based on what state your driver’s license was issued in and where you live. Every state has specific laws and/or guidelines which determine how long points stay on your record for.

A common approach is states assigning a certain maximum point value, which is lower for teen drivers. If you go ticket free for a year, your points are cut in half. If you go ticket free for 2 years, your points are reset to 0. Drives license points are administered and set by the Department of Motor Vehicles in your state. So it’s best to check with your state to see how they do things.

Something worth noting is that many times points will stay on your driving record longer than they actually count against you. There are some similarities between points and credit scores in that way.

Although you may have had traffic violations in the past which still appear on your driving record its possible that if they are old enough you still have a clean driving record according to some car insurance companies. Some states also offer different ways to keep tickets off your driving record with insurance companies.

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What do I need to know about the point system?

Before attempting to learn about the point system you need to realize that driving is a privilege. A driver’s license is not a right under the constitution but a privilege easily passed on to people with minimal requirements.

Governments, states, and other drivers expect you to follow the rules of the road and by endangering others or violating traffic laws your driver’s license can be subject to temporary suspension or permanent revocation in extreme cases.

The point system is fairly easy to understand, and the vast majority of drivers never reach any kind of problem point where a drivers license suspension is a risk. As a driver you should become familiar with the point system in your state.

A complete guide to the point system by state can be found here.

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What is an example of the point system?

Anytime a traffic violation occurs and you are ticketed, the offense may be subject to points. The number of points and how the accumulation of points impact your driver’s license will vary from state, however, let’s use Florida as an example.

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A Florida drivers license will be suspended automatically for any driver who incurs the following number of points within the given time frame:

  • 12 points in any 12-month period is an automatic 30-day drivers license suspension
  • 18 points in any 18-month period is an automatic 30-day drivers license suspension
  • 24 points in any 36-month period is an automatic 30-day drivers license suspension

A Florida driver can accrue points in a number of ways including such items as:

  • 6 points for leaving the scene of an accident with damage greater than $50 or speeding violations which result in an accident
  • 4 points for driving recklessly, attempting to pass a stopped school bus, exceeding posted speed limits by over 15mph or more.

You can our full Florida state guide to DMV traffic points here as these are just a couple examples.

There are many other ways to incur points and drivers should be aware almost ALL moving violations will be subject to demerit points on your driving record.

What are safe driving points?

Some states, such as Virginia, actually offer safe driving points as awards to drivers who are accident and ticket free every year. So while you can still get bad points for things like speeding, running a stop sign, etc., these states give you positive points for good behavior.

Think of safe driving points as earning points back for good behavior.

Virginia state law currently 2010 offers one safe driving point to all Virginia drivers license holders who have had no traffic violations or suspensions in a calendar year.

You can only earn a maximum of 5 safe driving points in Virginia. But they can be used to offset a ticket’s points when or should the time come. Keep in mind, insurance companies only consider your drivers license points should your license be suspended (in which case your coverage and privilege of driving would be invalid).

How Can You Reduce or Avoid License Points?

The best way to avoid points on your drivers license is by following the speed limit, paying attention to traffic signs, and otherwise following the law. Even if you get caught breaking the speed limit once, you may be able to avoid points. Many states will look at a traffic offense and offer driver improvement clinics also known as “traffic school.”

In short, you attend a class, and then they erase the violation if you meet other requirements (such as not getting another ticket for 6-12 months). These options are not generally available for reckless driving or other serious offenses.

Unlike accident forgiveness on your insurance policy, these types of waivers do follow you if you change insurance companies. Some people use them to keep their first ticket off their record. Others use them to keep their driving privileges by cancelling out a ticket that would put them over the points limit for their state.

The best way to learn about individual state safe driving points is to view our State Guide to DMV traffic points.

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