Understanding the DMV point system

In California, and most states, the Department of Motor Vehicles or DMV rates each driver using a point system. Everyone’s driving record starts fresh and clean – with zero points – but a traffic ticket or similar infraction can stain your record pretty easily. The more points you acquire during a specific period of time, the greater the chances the DMV will suspend or even revoke your driving privileges.

Infractions can accrue on your  record in the form of either one or two points. Examples of a one-point infraction include  minor moving violations like a traffic ticket, and  other issues involving your car’s mechanics or equipment such as problems with your breaks or child safety violations.

Two-point infractions include reckless driving, driving on a suspended or revoked license, hit-and-run accidents, and driving under the influence (DUI).

So how many points will get your license suspended or revoked?

  • Four points within 12 months
  • Six points within 24 months
  • Eight points within 36 months

Don’t worry, points can be cleared from your driving record, but it takes time.

  • One-point additions will usually clear after three years
  • Points for serious violations like DUIs and hit-and-run incidents remain on your record for 10 years; you read correctly an entire decade!
  • Failure to appear in court for any traffic violation will stay for five years
  • Failure to appear in court for a DUI will remain on your record for 10 years

As points sit quietly on your driving record, they’ll definitely scream when time comes to renew your car insurance policy or get a new one. Your insurance company or broker will look into your driving record and assess whether you’ve been  a good driver or not. If you have a large number of points, chances are you will end up paying more. Premium or preferred insurance companies may even boot your application if you have a substantial amount of points and infractions. However, brokers like Freeway Insurance, have access to industry insights and will shop around multiple carriers and provide a personalized policy depending on your insurance needs and driving record.

If you are skeptical about your driving record, you can always order a “driving record report” through the DMV. Regardless, they will notify you via mail when points are logged against your driving record.  As you accumulate points over time, the DMV will also let you know if you are close to getting your license suspended or revoked.

So what’s the moral of the story? Be careful and don’t break the law! However, if you do end up getting a ticket you may want to attend traffic school to prevent points from being added to your record. On the other hand, two-point infractions cannot be avoided with traffic school, and someone with many violations could benefit from consulting with an attorney that specializes in traffic violations.