We get a lot of questions concerning NY driver license points. There seems to be some degree of confusion out there about how the points system in NY works and how it all relates to a driver’s insurance rates. Here is some basic information:
How long will actual items on my driving record-convictions, points, accidents, suspensions, revocations-remain on my record and visible to someone who checks my record?
Your driving history can be reviewed in a document called your Driving Abstract. If you are suspended or revoked for something, are convicted of a moving violation or are in an accident it will all be visible on your Driving Abstract. These marks will remain on your abstract according to the following DMV rules:
- A moving violation conviction or an accident normally remains on a driver record during the year that the conviction or the accident occurred, and for the following three calendar years. Note that the DMV uses the year when the conviction occurred, not the year when the actual violation occurred. Thus, a conviction or accident which occurred on February 10, 2007 will remain on there through December 31, 2010 and will be removed on January 1, 2011.
- A conviction that is alcohol-related or is for driving while impaired by drugs (for example, DWI or DWAI) remains on a driver record for exactly 10 years from the date of conviction and there are actually other “serious” convictions and accidents that can remain on a driving record for more than 10 years.
- Suspensions or revocations of a driver license remain on a driver’s record for four years from the date the suspension or revocation was terminated. Note we are talking about four years from the date of termination of the suspension or revocation, not the date it started. Open suspensions or revocations that have not been cleared or terminated remain on a record indefinitely.
DMV also adds a note about employers and frequent requests for a abstracts that will show all driver activity for 10 years or even more. There’s no need to worry about that–DMV cannot provide any more information than will be provided on the basic driving abstract as described above.
For how long will actual items on my driving record-convictions, points, accidents, suspensions, revocations-hurt me?
It’s one thing to know how long something may actually appear on your driving record before it is removed altogether. It’s another thing to understand how these things can hurt a driver.
First recognize that DMV and your insurance company are two different entities. When we are discussing how marks on a license can impact a driver, consider that the DMV and insurance companies have their own way of doing things.
The DMV uses points and convictions to basically determine when certain surcharges should kick in and when driving privileges should be taken away via either a suspension or revocation. Once a driver accumulates six points, DMV will start charging assessments. Once a driver accumulates 11 points, DMV will consider suspension.
DMV calculates points based on an 18 month period. Points attach to the date the violation was committed, not the date of the conviction. Picture a giant timeline and at various dates along the timeline appear a driver’s convictions sitting on the date the ticket was issued. Now look at any 18 month period on that timeline. If the total points for any period are six or more, expect to pay the assessment surcharges. If the total points are eleven or more, prepare for a potential suspension. When someone typically asks “how long will the points be on my license”, I think all this is what they are trying to understand.
Consider the following: A driver gets a ticket on Jan 1, 2010. It’s a four point speeding ticket. Driver decides to just plead guilty and pay and does so by the end of January. Now the driver gets an eight point speeding ticket on April 1, 2011. This driver is now worried about suspension–four points plus a new ticket for eight points. Typically, someone in this position may call me after that second ticket and tell me that we must adjourn that second case and push it off until sometime after July 1, 2011 because at that time the four points from the first ticket “will come off his license”. This is the big misconception. We can push that second ticket off until 2020 and it wouldn’t help with the points. If he was ultimately convicted, the conviction will attach to his record on April 1, 2011. DMV will see that he accumulated 12 points in an 18 month period and they will assess and/or suspend according to their rules. That suspension and assessment may happen in 2020 or whenever the case is finished, but it will happen if he’s convicted. Date of the incident is always written in stone and there’s nothing anyone can do about that.
So remember that the concept of whether points have “come off” a license really depends on the situation. At the time when the motorist above was found guilty in 2020 of that second ticket, were the points from the first ticket “off his license”? On one hand yes, because if he had received a new third ticket in the year 2020 he would not have had to worry about the points from that new ticket ever getting added to the points from that first ticket issued in 2010. On the other hand no, the first points weren’t “off his record” if you consider the situation from the perspective of someone standing there in 2020 about to be convicted of a ticket he received back in April, 2011 within 18 months of the first ticket issued in 2010.
What about insurance?
First note that insurance companies could care less about DMV points. Repeat…insurance does not care about DMV points. Points are a DMV measuring stick. When the NYS DMV took cell phone violations and changed them from zero to two to three points in the course of one year do you think this played any role in an insurance company’s calculations? It was irrelevant. Their actuaries assess risk and a cell phone violation is no more or less of a risk factor worth zero or worth 1,763 points on your license. All the same to the insurer.
Many people think insurance companies care about points because they’ve heard the phrase “insurance points”. Most insurers use a “point” system to assign surcharges for chargeable accidents and traffic violation convictions to your policy. Although both are based on your driving record, this insurance point system is separate and distinct from points against your driving license maintained by the DMV. While I can’t say for sure what insurers think of the violation, consider seat belt tickets for drivers. DMV assesses no points for this, probably because the violation doesn’t cause any danger to anyone else other than the driver himself. Insurers, however, may see seat belt violations differently. Who would you consider a greater risk to insure–drivers who use their belts or drivers who continuously are pulled over and convicted for driving without them?
Insurance companies care about the nature of the convictions (what was the violation) and the quantity of the convictions. They don’t care how many points DMV attaches to it.
Second point to note about insurance is how long your violations, accidents, etc. will count against you when it comes to your insurance rates.
According the NYS Consumer Guide for Automobile Insurance, “premium surcharges due to accidents or convictions are governed by the Insurance Law and regulations, which allow surcharges to be applied during the experience period (typically three years) for specified incidents”. The “experience period” is the specific three year period an insurer will look at to determine what “surcharges”, if any, you’ll pay above and beyond typical premium rates for someone of your age, area or residence, etc. Different companies may calculate this experience period slightly different from one another.
Just like the client who wanted to adjourn his case to (incorrectly) wait for points to “come off”, many ask me to do the same for insurance purposes. The fact is that there are just too many considerations when it comes to that to lay it all out here. Perhaps there are some instances where a driver can adjourn a case or take some action to influence what a potential insurer considers, but in my opinion it can be very difficult to do that. There are just too many moving parts and considerations in most cases.
Curious about the “specific incidents” that insurers do consider in determining premium surcharges? Here’s the list.
Surcharges are OK for:
- accidents involving bodily injury or death, or losses to property in excess of $1,000 ($2,000 for policies effective on and after November 27, 2010), where the insured driver is at fault; or
- convictions for certain violations, including the following illustrations:
- speeding more than 15 MPH over the legal limit;
- driving while intoxicated or impaired by alcohol or drugs;
- operating a vehicle while attempting to avoid apprehension by a law enforcement officer;
- leaving the scene of an accident without reporting it;
- operating a vehicle in a race or speed test;
- driving without a license or knowingly permitting an unlicensed person to drive your vehicle; or
- filing a false insurance claim.
However, surcharges are specifically not permitted for:
- your vehicle was struck in the rear, without a moving violation conviction against you;
- your vehicle was struck while it was legally parked;
- you as the insured or your insurer is reimbursed or obtains a judgment of 1/3 or more (on a property damage or physical damage claim)
- the driver of your car was not at fault (on a bodily injury claim or No-Fault claim) or was struck by a hit-and-run vehicle;
- the total damage caused by the accident is less than $1,000 ($2,000 for policies effective on and after November 27, 2010) and there were no injuries (however, having 2 or more accidents under $1,000 ($2,000 for policies effective on and after November 27, 2010) is usually subject to a surcharge);
- you have a single minor moving violation of the Vehicle & Traffic Law other than those specifically set forth in the Insurance Law (some of which are listed above);
- the accident occurred while the insured was driving an employer’s vehicle in the course of business (this also includes police officers, firefighters and peace officers while on duty in their official vehicles, or while driving any vehicle in an emergency situation); or
- claims are made under comprehensive or towing coverages.
What should a driver take away from all this? I think the three main points are that one, there is a difference between how long incidents actually sit on your total driving history and how long they may cause you any harm. Two, the “harm” that these incidents on your record may cause really depends on who is looking (DMV or insurance company) and when/why they are looking. Three, with very very few potential exceptions, there is no strategy when it comes to rescheduling your traffic hearing and trying to somehow “beat” the DMV or your insurance company at their own game based on the various time periods discussed above. DMV and insurance companies have both built in ways of keeping and reviewing records which make sure no penalties of any type will be avoided by adjourning cases and otherwise trying to play the system.