What Are Auto Points?

Baldwin Insurance Agency Blog -

If you are reading this, you are either a curious person, or you just had an incident where you might have gotten points on your license.  Hopefully, it's the former!  We will review the basics of auto points and provide some resolutions.  So if you ever find yourself in a situation where points could be added, you can work your way around the system.  Since timing might be of the essence, let's get right into it.

What's The Difference Between License Points and Insurance Points?

Auto points are actually a part of two different systems governed by the individual state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and insurance companies.  The DMV, in forty-one states, has created a point system which is connected to every driver's license.  This was done to better track drivers and ensure those allowed on the road are prioritizing the safety of others.  Additionally, insurance companies create their own point system for managing the risk of their drivers.  They want to make sure those more likely to get into an accident are paying more.  And if a driver’s points are too high, they might even be rejected by the insurance company.  While the insurance points are more for calculating premiums, the license points are geared towards whether the driver should be suspended or not.  If your license points get to a certain threshold, you could get suspended or even lose your license.

How Are Points Accumulated? 

Both the DMV and insurance companies have their own point system.  State DMVs differ in how their points are given.  For example, New York gives you 5 points for running a red light while Missouri gives you 2 points.  The good news is that these points are transparent.  You can view your state DMV to get an understanding of the points received for various violations.  As private companies, insurance companies don't share their point system and won't even notify you when you get points (although you can guess if your rates go up, that it could have been the result of a violation you received).  They have their own unique approach and algorithms for determining points.  We might not know the exact point total, but we can fairly assume violations like drunk driving and excessive speeding will result in a big increase of points.

How Can I Reduce My Points? 

While getting points from the DMV or insurance company isn't a pleasant experience, there are things you may be able to do for getting points reduced.

1. Keep Quiet

If you get points on your license, it will likely take time for your insurance company to find out.  The DMV doesn't alert your insurance company.  The insurance company periodically checks your record for updating their point system.  Your policy might even end before they check your DMV records.  So if you get points, you might have a few months before a premium increase occurs.  Sit tight and wait to see how your insurance company responds.

2. Negotiate with The Police

The police understand the point system on both sides of the table.  They might be nice and explain they will give you a particular violation which won't give you any points.  I've had this happen, in one instance.  Sometimes, they might need a little push.  Be courteous, admit wrong, and see if they write down a violation which won't penalize you in the long-run with license and insurance points.

3. Go To Court

If you aren't able to work with the police when you initially get the ticket, go to court.  You can try to get the whole ticket revoked.  Or you could ask for a higher fee in exchange for a lesser sentence.  This is actually a fairly common situation.  The court wants a resolution, and a higher fee benefits them more than you having a couple points on your record.  Offering to pay a higher fee can go a long way towards keeping your premiums low and ensuring your license doesn't get suspended.

4. Take A Driving Course

Taking a driver improvement class or defensive driving course can be a way to reduce your points.  Check with your state DMV about options and to learn more about the classes.  Also be sure to contact your insurance company to see if they'd offer any reduction / discount for taking a course.

5. Wait It Out

Nothing will stay on your record forever.  Both the DMV and insurance companies will remove points over time.  Typically, an incident is removed 2-5 years later.  In more serious violations like repeated DUIs, it can stay on your record for 11 years (in Virginia, for example).  

6. Get A Quote

While working with another insurance company won't reduce your license points, they might calculate your insurance points differently, and be able to offer you a better premium.  Violations can have a huge impact on your premium.  A smaller incident can increase your rates by 30% and a more serious one can cause your insurance costs to double.  If another insurance company were able to offer any reduction from a doubling of your premiums, that would be a great savings.  It's important to get a quote once your rate has been increased, to see if you can get a better rate elsewhere.

If you have seen your rate increase due to a driving incident, call us today.  We partner with over 20 different insurance companies, and can shop all of them to find you the most affordable rate.  You might not be able to reduce your points, but you can get money back in your pocket today.  Call us now so we can get started on getting quotes for you from a variety of insurance companies.