Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products, including home, life, auto, and commercial, and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, mainly in the insuranc...

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UPDATED: Oct 18, 2021

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Important facts to know...

  • Some states allow you to take classes in exchange for point reduction
  • Point value increases with the severity of the offense
  • Insurance companies consistently check driving records when issuing a new policy

In all fifty states, driving is considered a privilege rather than a right, and a driver has to be aware of how this affects them while they’re on the road. Aggressive driving isn’t going to be ignored. States may use penalty points to track drivers they consider unsafe, and getting too many points on a license can lead to serious problems.

As you learn more about the relationship between points and your insurance, you’ll see how getting points can cost you money in the long run, and how you can find ways to still save on your insurance costs.

One way you can save on insurance is by comparing quotes and finding the best company for the best price. Enter your zip code above to begin.

What are penalty points?

Points can be added to your license for a variety of reasons.

Most commonly, points are a response to moving violations.

States like New Jersey do not assess points for parking and non-moving violations such as failure to wear a seatbelt. If you exceed a certain number of points, you can lose your license. This is why it’s so important to understand safe driving principles.

Point amounts typically increase based on the severity of the crime and the likelihood that it might result in an accident. Here are just a few of the point values that you would find in different states:

  • Six points for manslaughter, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and reckless driving
  • Four points for being sixteen miles or more over the posted speed limit
  • Three points for improper passing or failing to stop at a railroad crossing
  • Two points for being over the speed limit by one to ten miles per hour

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Can you remove points from a license?

Every state has its own requirements for removing points from a license. They generally come off with time, but there are also some steps you may be able to speed up the process.

Here are steps you can take in a few different states to eliminate the points that have built up:

  • In California, most points remain on a record for 39 months, but a hit-and-run or DUI will remain in place for 13 years
  • New York state allows drivers to remove points that are more than 18 months old by taking a defensive driving class
  • You can get a two-point credit in Ohio if you have fewer than 12 points on your record and sign up for a remedial driver course. This credit will not actually remove points but will provide drivers with a cushion against future infractions

If you find yourself in a situation where points have been added to your license, you can call your provider to ask if taking something like a defensive driving program would help to minimize them. However, even if your state allows you to take a class in exchange for point reduction, they may force you to wait a specified period of time before the change will go into effect.

If your insurance rates saw a spike following the assessment, you can always shop around to see about finding lower rates.

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Is a driving record the most critical factor in setting premiums?

Insurance companies look at a range of information when setting premiums, including where you live, gender, type of car, and marital status. However, your own driving record will play the greatest single role in determining your rates.

A single ticket can cause your rates to go up by as much as twenty two percent. Whether your state uses points or just reports directly to the insurance on file, average rates will go up by:

  • 22 percent for reckless driving
  • 19 percent for a first-offense DUI
  • 15 percent for being more than 30 miles-per-hour over the speed limit
  • 14 percent for improper passing
  • 13 percent for tailgating
  • 6 percent for driving without car insurance

If you’re waiting patiently for your record to improve as points age out, you can still save money by making a few changes to your insurance. Consider increasing your deductible or dropping extra services like glass breakage.

Another option is to shop around with other companies to see what price they will charge for comparable coverage. This isn’t necessarily a guarantee of reduced rates, but until you have a clean driving record again, you’re going to have to put some work into managing your policy.

Will insurance companies check on young drivers more frequently?

While some infractions are reported directly to insurance companies, states often just let the company find out by pulling the reports on a driver themselves.

It can be costly for insurance companies to pull biannual reports on every driver they insure, so many companies are being more selective about who they check up on.

Research shows that companies typically pull the reports of drivers under the age of 29, but they don’t check the records for people over the age of 50 nearly as often.

Insurance companies are trying to save money as well, so they’ve developed a pattern for checking driving reports. In addition to looking at young drivers frequently, they also check your information:

  • About once every eighteen to twenty four months
  • When you sign up for a new plan
  • When you make changes to your plan such as adding coverage or buying a high-performance car

If you’ve recently gotten a ticket, you should start out by being patient and waiting to see if you’re notified of an increase. Immediately changing your plan can bring light to the infractions and result in higher rates.

However, if you’ve already been hit with an increase, then you have nothing to lose by shopping around for more attractive rates. Just make sure to check the ratings of other providers; leaving because of a mandated increase could lead to complications. Plus, that information is going to follow you, even to a new plan. You won’t be able to leave your points and infractions behind simply because you’re switching services.

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Are there steps you can take to lower premiums?

There are steps you can take to bring your premiums back down if you’ve already seen an increase. You can ask about discounts or other options your provider might have. But you can also start by shopping around to see if you can find better rates. It’s a competitive market – your provider may be more willing to look into what discounts are available to you if you mention you’re looking elsewhere.

If it’s only a negligible savings, then stay where you are so that you can take advantage of special programs that may be available to long-term customers. You may also be able to save by:

  • Completing a defensive driving course
  • Increasing your deductible
  • Maintaining your good credit score
  • Getting a tracking device to show the insurance company that your patterns and habits have improved

There are plenty of insurance plans to choose from, and you can still switch providers even if you have penalty points on your license. If your rates have jumped up, then talk to other insurance companies to see if they can help you. More and more these days, companies are looking for new ways to help people save money. Price matching may not be something that an insurance company is going to do, but they’re still going to try to have the lowest prices against their competitors if possible.

As your record improves, you can also call your provider and ask them to reassess your rates and lower them. You may want to pull your record to confirm that it’s completely clean before asking to have your rates reassessed.

Don’t forget to compare car insurance quotes to make sure you’re not overpaying for coverage.