Driver's License Points vs. Insurance Points

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If you live in one of the states with a state-issued point system, you may wonder how those points could impact your insurance rate. Points on your driving record and points issued by your insurance company are related to one another, but they’re not the same. If you’re confused by the relationship between insurance points and driver’s license points, you’re not alone. We’ll help clear up any misconceptions. 

Key Takeaways

  • Driver’s license points and insurance points accrue as the results of motor vehicle-related convictions and violations in some states.
  • The scale used and the number of points for a particular violation vary by state and insurer. 
  • Accruing too many driver’s license points may lead to losing your license.
  • Accruing too many insurance points could lead to increased auto insurance costs or non-renewal of your auto insurance policy.

Driver’s License Points

Most U.S. states have a system for adding points to your state driving record if you’re convicted of violating motor vehicle laws at the state, county, or city level. The purpose of points is to encourage safer, better driving habits and to protect drivers, passengers, and others who share the road.

Each legal violation has a fixed point number assigned to it. These points are typically set by the state’s department of motor vehicles. 

  • Alternative names: demerit point system, driver violation point system, mandatory point system, negligent operator point system, point system

Each state has a different scale for assigning points. Here’s a comparison of a few driving violations across a handful of states:

Georgia New York Michigan Arizona Nevada
Speeding 13 MPH over the posted speed limit 0 4 3 3 2
Reckless Driving 5 6 8

According to Madelyn H. Flannagan, vice president of agent development, education, and research at Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America (IIABA), “The points are reflective of the severity of the violation and vary by state.” 

Some of the assigned points could lead to immediate suspension of your license. For example, Arizona’s limit of eight points in 12 months means that an eight-point violation for reckless driving or a DUI requires either traffic survival school or a license suspension for up to 12 months. 

In some states, certain convictions garner immediate suspension in addition to points. Some states even add points for moving violations out of state

Point-earning violations vary widely. For example, Georgia hands out points for violating limits on sound volume, New York drivers are given points as severely for texting as for reckless driving, and Michigan residents can receive points for alcohol-related convictions while operating a snowmobile. Review your state’s point system to understand whether you’re at risk for collecting points.

How Do I Find Out the Number of Points on My License Right Now?

You may be able to discover your point balance by looking up your driving record through your state’s department of motor vehicles' online portal or calling its office. Some states will also allow you to review the record of your past driving history. 

What Happens When You Get Points on Your License?

You might receive a letter in the mail. For example, Michigan drivers will receive a notice if they receive four or more points within two years.

Depending on how many points you already have, one of several things could happen when you add points to your license: You could continue driving without any changes, be required to attend traffic school, or face suspension of your driving privileges. State DMVs may also notify your insurance company of your point-earning conviction, which is where insurance points come in.

Insurance Points

Most insurance companies have implemented surcharges for those same moving violations and at-fault accidents, which some call “insurance points,” according to Flannagan. Insurance points may also be known as “accident- or violation-related premium increases or surcharges,” she says. Your insurance premium is the amount you pay annually for your insurance policy.

In some states, you may be turned down for insurance or face non-renewal if you have too many “eligibility points” for traffic violations. 

How Do Insurance Points Affect Premiums?

When it’s time to renew your policy, your insurance company will likely pull the driving record of all insured drivers listed on your policy, Flannagan says. A driving record includes all driver’s license issuances, renewals, violations, points, accidents, suspensions, and other related occurrences. 

At that time, the insurer will consider what type of moving violations you might have picked up—such as speeding or an at-fault accident—along with any claims you made, such as repairs for a parking lot fender-bender. Based on the severity of the violation or accident, your insurance premiums could increase accordingly. 

Which Violations Have the Biggest Effects?

Violations and insurance points vary by state and insurer. Flannagan notes that your rates might go up by 10% for a speeding ticket, or even to 100% for a DUI. Let’s look at an example: North Carolina has created a Safe Driver Incentive Plan (SDIP) and assesses SDIP points, which increase your insurance premium by a set percentage. Here’s the impact it would have on an $800-per-year policy. 

Violation Safe Driver Insurance Plan Points Percent Increase Post-Violation Annual Insurance Rate
Speeding up to 10 mph over the limit in a speed limit zone under 55 mph 1 30% $1,040
Hit-and-run resulting in property damage only 4 80% $1,440
Highway racing or knowingly lending a motor vehicle for highway racing 10 260%  $2,880
Driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or higher  12 340%  $3,520 

How Do I Find Out How Many Insurance Points I Have?

Flannagan says that you can ask your insurance agent about any surcharges or points applied to your premium and what information was obtained, to quantify the additional charges.

The agent can also tell you how long the surcharge will apply. Insurance points typically stay on your insurance policy until they roll off of your driving record after a certain period of time. At-fault accidents remain on adriver’s insurance record for varying lengths of time, typically also two to three years.

Some insurers offer reward programs with “points,” which are different from claims-related surcharges or points.

Driver’s License Points vs. Insurance Points

As we can see, driver’s license points and insurance points both punish poor driving choices. However, driver’s license points aim to either improve a driver’s behavior or suspend the license. Insurance companies use points to better assess their risk in covering specific drivers—if the driver has shown risky behavior, the company is more likely to have to pay claims.

Some companies offer “accident forgiveness” for one at-fault accident, where no insurance points are assessed and no surcharge is added to the driver’s premium—for example, sideswiping a concrete parking pillar and denting your car, which now needs repairs.

Flannagan notes that non-moving violations, like darkened window tint or expired car registration, may result in driver’s license points but not insurance points or surcharges.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I remove points on my driver’s license?

In some states, you can remove, lower, or change the calculations of driving record points by enrolling in a driving improvement course. These courses may also be called “driver improvement clinics” or “defensive driving courses” and offer a refresher on safer driving. In California, traffic school can prevent points from being added to your record if you’re eligible.

As an additional benefit, completing these classes could reduce your auto insurance premiums or points—ask your insurer. 

When do driver’s license points reset?

Points generally roll off your driving record after a period of time—typically 36 months—but may remain longer, depending on the severity of the violation. Certain serious convictions (such as second DUIs, subsequent DUIs, or reckless driving) may stay on your state driving record for longer periods—up to 11 years in Virginia, for example.

How many driver’s license points can you get before losing your license?

As points accumulate, your driver’s license can be suspended. This might be for a certain length of time or indefinitely, depending on the types of violations and severity. 

Here are some examples of how many points within a certain time period can lead to losing your driving privileges:

State Points Received  Within 
North Carolina 12 3 years
New York 11 18 months
Georgia 15 2 years
Oklahoma 10 5 years 

To get your license back, you may need to complete driver’s safety courses, complete your suspension, and/or pay fees.

How many driver’s license points can I get before my insurance goes up?

According to Flannagan, there isn’t a simple way to tell how much your insurance premium will increase after a ticket or accident is reported on your driving record. Every insurance company has its own formula for calculating insurance points and how they will increase your auto insurance rates.