What Are 'Points' And How Do They Affect My Insurance Rates?

By Ryan Hurlbert on March 16th, 2010

At some point, nearly everyone has received, heard about, or knows someone who has gotten a "point" on his or her driving record. Few people know how points are doled out or how many are "too many."

Most states have a way of tracking your moving violations and "avoidable accidents." Not all states use a point system, and there is no standard point value for any given offense. For example, Oregon counts all convictions and avoidable accidents, regardless of severity, as a single occurrence with no additional weight for major infractions. On the other hand, Wisconsin ranks infractions by severity and awards minor violations two points, adding additional points for more serious offenses, with the most serious infractions assigned six points.

How Many Points Get You in Trouble?

Every state decides how many points, and over a what time period, will warrant action against a driver and how severe that action may be. Each state also sets rules about how long a point stays on your driving record, and how long an auto insurance company can use that point to determine your premiums. Some states allow certain violations, like DUIs, to remain on your record far longer than a simple speeding ticket.

Many times you can find this information on your state's DMV Web site.

A Couple of Speeding Tickets Is No Big Deal, Right?

When you apply for auto insurance, your driving record and claims record are reviewed. Due to arrangements for records reciprocity among many states, even tickets you received while travelling across the country may show up on your record. Car insurance companies frequently review your driving record at renewal time and after you file a claim. Points can affect your premium or whether you can get insurance at all.

But the real damage is done when you accumulate enough points for the DMV to suspend or revoke your driver's license. In order to regain your license, you have to file for an SR-22 "proof of insurance" form. A driver with a suspended license who requires an SR-22 may have a tough time finding insurance -- let alone finding a cheap car insurance policy.

A poor driving record can also affect life insurance premiums. Auto accidents are a leading cause of death, and a driver with a lot of points on their record may have to pay more for life insurance.

Can Points Be Removed?

Depending on where you live, you may be able to remove points. Some states allow you to attend traffic school to remove convictions and points from your record, but seldom more than once. Utah removes points for minor infractions after a year if you don't receive any other traffic convictions.

Most states limit how far back an auto insurance company can look at your driving record for rating purposes; three to five years is typical. Because points are only awarded after convictions, you can fight every ticket in court and hope to win. However, a lawyer for such court proceedings may cost more than the fines and increased insurance costs.

The best way to keep points from accumulating on your driving record is to drive safely and obey the law. A minor ticket every few years won't hurt your insurability. But if points on your driving record start to add up, your auto insurance premiums are likely to rise as well.


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