Driver’s License Points: Do They Matter?

pulled over showing driver's license

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In the world of traffic law and auto insurance, points are universally a bad thing. Instead of helping you win (like in sports), think more along the lines of the demerits your eighth grade math teacher used to dole out. Worse, piling up driver’s license points will end up costing you money, and maybe even your license.

Most U.S. states have a points system that correlates with moving violations and collisions. This means that in addition to any tickets issued by police officers, your state’s DMV will also keep a tally of your infractions—earn too many in too short a time period and your license may be suspended or revoked. Although not every state uses a points system, all states keep track of each driver’s record and will suspend or revoke licenses as they see fit. Further, car insurance companies also keep a tally of customers’ driving offenses for rate calculation purposes.

What Are Driver’s License Points?

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) points are added to a driver’s record each time he or she is convicted of a traffic violation (speeding, texting while driving, illegal turns, drunk driving, and at-fault crashes.

Auto insurance companies assign points differently. Each company follows its own system, but more points mean a higher premium, and drivers are likely to earn points for infractions like speeding (especially excessive speeding, meaning going more than ten miles per hour over the speed limit) and crashes that result in an insurance claim.

Which States Use the Points System?

Each state makes its own traffic laws, and so while all but nine states use a point system to keep track of driver infractions, each state’s laws are unique and each point system works differently (1 point in California is not the same as 1 point in Alabama, for instance).

Some states automatically clear points after a certain amount of time, while other states have more complicated systems. And some states (looking at you, Alaska) almost never remove points from drivers’ records.

Keep in mind that in most states, once you’ve had your license suspended a first time it’s easier to earn a second suspension. A DUI conviction will mean a suspended license almost everywhere in the U.S. (and may make it difficult or impossible for you to obtain auto insurance).

And in almost all states, if you’re convicted of a traffic offense out of state, it’ll be added to your in-state tally.

driver's license suspended

State-by-State Guide to Driver’s License Points

A complete list of each violation which will earn you points and the consequences can be found on the link for each state below. We’ve also noted the minimum points needed for your first license suspension in each state:

Alabama: 12-14 points in two years will mean a 60-day license suspension.

Alaska: 12 points in 12 months or 18 points in 24 months requires the mandatory suspension or revocation of the driving privilege.

Arizona: Eight or more points in any 12-month period could lead to suspended driving privilege for up to 12 months.

Arkansas: 14 points or more will result in a suspended license for three months. Earn more points, and your license will be suspended longer (there’s no time period). Arkansas means business: some points can be removed, but they “maintain a record of all the points added to your driving license.”

California: Four points or more within 12 months, six points or more with 24 months, or eight points or more within 36 months will mean a suspended license.

Colorado: Adults 21 and over can have their license suspended for 12 points within a 12-month period or 18 points within a 24-month period.

Connecticut: Points remain on your record for 24 months; 10 or more points will equal a license suspension.

Delaware: 12 points in 24 months could result in a license suspension.

Florida: 12 points in 12 months will lead to a 30-day license suspension.

Georgia: A driver with 15 points in 24 months will have his license suspended.

Idaho: 12-17 points in one year equals a license suspension for 30 days.

Illinois: 15-44 points will mean a license suspension of two months. And, three driving violations within a 12-month period will also result in a suspension.

Indiana: 18 or more points in 24 months is likely to result in a suspended license.

Iowa: 6-7 points (in a six-year period) means a two-year suspension.

Kentucky: 12 points (seven points for those under 18) within a two-year period might mean a license suspension.

Maine: 12 points in one year might mean a suspension for 15 days.

Maryland: 8-11 points in two years will mean a license suspension.

Massachusetts: Surchargable points are set by the state’s Safe Driver Insurance Program (in MA, insurance rates are set by the state government). Drivers’ licenses will be suspended if they accumulate three surchargable offenses in two years.

Michigan: 12 points in two years might mean a suspension.

Missouri: Eight or more points in 18 months will result in license suspension.

Montana: The state keeps track of all moving violations and offenses and an excessive (undefined) amount will result in penalties, including license suspension.

Nebraska: 12 points in two years will result in a revoked license.

Nevada: 12 or more points in any 12-month period means the driver’s license is automatically suspended for six months.

New Hampshire: Drivers over 21 who acquire 12 points in one calendar year will face up to three months suspension.

New Jersey: Six or more points in three years will result in a suspension.

New Mexico: 7-10 points in one year will mean a 30-day suspension.

New York: 11 points in 18 months may result in a suspension.

North Carolina: 12 points in three years might lead to a suspension.

North Dakota: If a driver accumulates 12 points, his license will be suspended seven days for each point over 11.

Ohio: 12 or more points will mean a six-month license suspension.

Oklahoma: 10 points in five years will mean a suspension.

Pennsylvania: Accumulating six or more points twice might mean a 15-day license suspension.

South Carolina: 12 points will mean a license suspension.

South Dakota: 15 points in any 12 consecutive months, or 22 points in any 24 consecutive months might mean a driver’s license suspension.

Tennessee: 12 or more points in 12 months might mean a suspension.

Texas: Accumulating too many points or moving violations is likely to result in fines and license suspension.

Utah:  Drivers over 21 who accumulate 200 or more points in three years might have their licenses suspended for three months to a year, depending on the seriousness of the driving record.

Vermont: 10 points equals a suspension.

Virginia: 12 points in 12 months means an automatic license suspension. Interesting fact: in VA, each year you drive safely will earn you a “safe point” from which demerit points are later deducted. So, if you drive safely for a few years and then are convicted of a minor offense, you might not get any points added to your license.

Washington, D.C.: Accumulating 10-11 points will mean a 90-day license suspension, and 12 or more points will mean a suspension of at least six months.

West Virginia: 12-13 points means a 30-day suspension.

Wisconsin: 12 points in 12 months will result in a license suspension.

driving through traffic

States Without Points

Though none of the following states have formal points systems, all keep track of each driver’s record and will suspend licenses on a case-by-case basis based on violations:

Car Insurance and Points

The most important thing every driver needs to understand about auto insurance and points (no matter where you live) is that insurance companies don’t look at your points tally to determine your insurance rate. Instead, insurers conduct their own checks into each customer’s driving history. Violations and at-fault collisions will mean higher auto insurance rates.

Neil Richardson, licensed insurance agent and The Zebra’s auto insurance expert, explains: “Insurers use an MVR (motor vehicle report) to determine your rate (they also use a CLUE report but that has nothing to do with traffic tickets). Your MVR comes from your state’s department of transportation and shows any tickets you have been issued as well as any traffic collisions where a police officer wrote a report. This is used to verify driving history for new customers, and the more tickets showing on the report, the higher your quote or rate will be.

State assessed license points can be lowered or removed through the payment of fines, but they do not necessarily remove violations from your record. So, just because you ‘don’t have any points on your license’ doesn’t mean that your driving record is clear of violations. You can have 0 license points and still have traffic tickets on your driving record, so those violations will still impact your insurance rate.”

More information about the particulars of auto insurance pricing can be found in The Zebra’s The State of Auto Insurance report.