A person's driving record is a summary of their activities behind the wheel. A driving record shows how long they've been driving, whether they've had any speeding tickets or other legal issues, and includes records of accidents. Driving records can be accessed by insurance companies, law enforcement, employers, and lenders. Insurance companies can use these records to set rates, banks use them to decide if the driver is a reasonable risk for a loan, and employers review them to determine an employee's level of personal responsibility. If you are applying for a job that requires driving or comes with significant responsibility for company equipment, your driving record may be an issue.
In addition to driving records, drivers can accumulate points for bad driving. Good drivers who stay out of trouble, maintain their vehicles, and drive soberly are unlikely to be concerned about points.
Every state uses a point system except:
- Rhode Island
However, all states record and monitor the number of infractions drivers accumulate. There is also a National Driver Registry Problem Driver Pointer System that records driving record data and shares it among states. This means that if you're a negligent driver in California, it is unlikely that you can move to another state and start fresh with no points against you. It also means that if you were found responsible for a serious accident in one state, the penalty will follow you regardless of where you go.
Types of Driving Infractions
As the number of people behind the wheel continues to grow, so does the number of driving infractions committed by drivers. Whether the infraction is minor or serious, it can affect your driving privileges, either temporarily or permanently. You can be cited for a variety of driving violations, including:
- Driving too fast for conditions (failing to obey a posted speed limit)
- Texting or talking on a hand-held device while driving
- Driving with a suspended license
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Following too closely
- Failure to yield right-of-way (e.g., failing to give way to other vehicles when entering a highway)
- Running red lights
- Failing to signal at intersections
- Improper lane changes
How Does the Points System Work?
Points are assessed separately by state departments of motor vehicles and by insurance companies. Points vary according to the severity of traffic incidents and infractions. Your insurance or driver's license may be suspended if you collect too many points. Points disappear from your record after a specific period, generally five years.
Insurance companies assess points similarly, according to a driver's record. Insurance companies use their own points system to set insurance rates, and rates can be increased by as much as 50 percent for an accident. Over time a driver who accumulates points for poor driving will be reviewed for surcharges (fees in addition to regular insurance rates) and possible non-renewal of insurance.
How Do You Get Points?
A relatively minor infraction, such as a broken taillight or a minor speeding ticket that requires payment to law enforcement, may count as 2 points. Major infractions, including criminally negligent behavior like driving under the influence, often add 10 points.
In Pennsylvania, the state department of motor vehicles attaches points to driving records for moving violations. Once a driver accumulates six points, they must take a safe driving class. A hearing is held to determine if their driving privileges should be suspended if they earn another six points. Points are removed from Pennsylvania driving records for every 12 months of good driving. Younger drivers face much more severe penalties for infractions that involve points.
Florida drivers may find three-point infractions add up quickly. These include driving less than 15 miles per hour over the speed limit, driving on the shoulder of the road, or not requiring seat belts for children. Four-point infractions include running red lights and speeding more than 15 miles per hour above the speed limit. Six-point infractions include causing or leaving the scene of an accident or driving recklessly. Floridians who accumulate 12 points or more in 12 months automatically get their licenses suspended for a month. Those who accumulate 18 points or more in a year automatically get a three-month license suspension. The state may allow some points to be dismissed upon completing a safe driving class successfully.
California calls its points system "NOTS" for Negligent Operator Treatment System. It assigns one point to most driving infractions, such as speeding or failure to obey signs, and two points for more severe infractions, such as driving under the influence. Commercial drivers receive more points for the same infractions. In California, drivers who accumulate six points in 12 months or eight points in 24 months must attend a hearing to determine whether the state will take action against them as negligent drivers.
Can You Avoid Landing Points on Your License?
First-time offenders may be able to successfully argue in traffic court that they don't deserve points for a minor violation. An attorney may also help to negotiate points with a judge or magistrate. Taking a safe driver course endorsed by the state DMV is another possible way to avoid accumulating points on your driving record.
Where Can You View Your License Points?
All drivers have access to their driving records by contacting the department of motor vehicles in the state where they live and are licensed. It is possible to contest points through an appeals process for situations such as not being found at fault in an accident.
Operating a motor vehicle is a privilege that comes with a lot of responsibility. Assessing points and holding drivers responsible for repeated dangerous driving patterns helps maintain an acceptable level of safety on the roads. Points are a carrot-and-stick approach to driver vigilance. There's more to driving than passing a license test; drivers must obey traffic laws and keep the safety of others in mind.