Most states have a traffic ticket points system. These systems assign a point value to different traffic offenses, with more serious offenses carrying a higher point value. For example, violations like driving under the influence (DUI), reckless driving, and leaving the scene of an accident assign more points than a seat belt citation, speeding ticket, or running a red light or stop sign.
When you receive a traffic ticket, points are added to your driver's license and become part of your driving record. Accumulating a certain number of points, usually 10-12, can lead to consequences for drivers, such as driver's license suspension or revocation and higher insurance premiums.
Points systems discussed in this article apply to non-commercial drivers. Point values may be different for those with a commercial driver's license (CDL). This is because commercial drivers operate larger and heavier vehicles that pose greater safety risks if not driven safely. Although it varies by state, points systems for commercial drivers typically differ in a few ways:
- Stricter point thresholds
- Harsher penalties
- Different point values for violations
Do All States Use a Point System?
Not all states have a formal point system. These states use other methods to monitor traffic violations and apply penalties:
- Rhode Island
The absence of a point system does not mean there aren't penalties for driving offenses in these states. Violations can still impact residents' insurance rates and driving privileges. See the chart at the end of this article for links to these states' alternatives to points-based systems.
Duration of Points
Points do not stay on your driving record forever. Most states remove points after a certain period of incident-free driving. The specific period of time depends on the state where you hold your license, but typically points expire after one to three years. Once points are removed, they can no longer be used to restrict your driving privileges.
It should be noted that just because the points for a particular offense have expired doesn't mean they will no longer have an impact. The traffic conviction can stay on your driving record and may still affect your auto insurance rates. Insurance companies set their own guidelines on how long they will charge higher premiums for citations and points.
Checking Your Driver's License Points
It's simple to find out how many points you currently have on your driver's license. Although this process can vary by state, it is typically handled through your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). There are a few ways to check your point total:
- Your state's DMV website, usually in the Online Services section
- Mailing a written request for a copy of your driver's record
- In person at your local DMV office
Be prepared to provide your driver's license number and other identifying information.
Table of State-Specific Points Systems
The links in the table below provide information on each state's points system or alternative.
Avoid Driver's License Points: Get Legal Advice
If your driver's license is at risk because of too many points, you may want to contact a traffic ticket attorney in your area. An attorney experienced with local traffic laws can review your options and even help you challenge a traffic citation. This could help keep your driving privileges and save you a costly fine.