As New York traffic ticket lawyers, we understandably 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, how long points “last” and stay on your driving record and how it all relates to a driver’s insurance rates.
A good place to start is with the purpose of DMV points. The DMV uses a point system to measure two things:
- When to suspend a motorist’s privilege to drive. The rule of thumb in New York is license suspension once a driver has accumulated 11 or more points. While it’s worth noting that this is not a fixed or definite number — there are exceptions where judges have discretion to suspend a motorist with fewer than 11 points or not suspend a motorist with more than 11 points — 11 points is clearly the number to keep in mind regarding a potential suspension.
- When to start assessing additional surcharges to drivers. If a motorist has accumulated 6 or more points on their record at any given time, they will be billed $300 for the first 6 points and then $75 for every additional point. This is called the Driver Responsibility Assessment.
How Do I Get Points On My License?
No points are added to your driving record unless and until you are convicted of a violation which carries points. After a conviction, the points are added to your record and attached to the date you got the ticket. This is very important. It’s the date the ticket was issued that is the relevant date, not the date you were found guilty (convicted) of the violation.
How Long Will Items on My Driving Record (Convictions, Accidents, Suspensions, Revocations) Be Visible to Someone Who Looks?
Your driving history can be reviewed in a document called your Driver Abstract. If you are convicted of a moving violation, it will be visible on your abstract. So will any suspensions or revocations or accidents. Once added to your driving history, these marks will remain visible according to the following DMV rules:
- A moving violation conviction or an accident will be placed there after the conviction or accident and remain on the driver record during the year that the conviction or the accident occurred and for the following three calendar years.
- A conviction for an incident like a DWI that is alcohol or drug related 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 (the date it was cleared or lifted). Open suspensions or revocations that have not been cleared or terminated remain on a record indefinitely.
These are just the rules regarding what length of time something remains visible on a driving record before it is removed altogether. This isn’t necessarily what people are talking about when asking how many points are “on” a license. They are usually talking about point calculation and that’s a little different and more specific than the fuller history and what is simply listed on the record.
How Many Points Do I Have On My License?
Remember, no points are added to your driving record unless and until you are convicted of a violation which carries points. After the conviction, the DMV will now go back in time to that date you received the ticket to examine how many points you may have accumulated within 18 months of that date. The DMV can then penalize you after you are convicted if they see that you had accumulated too many points back when you received the ticket.
In the examples below, it doesn’t matter how long after the ticket is issued that the driver is convicted. He might choose to pay the ticket and just plead guilty the day after he gets it or he might fight it and try to stretch it out for years. The penalties for point accumulation will be imposed after you are convicted even if those points accumulated on your record years earlier.
- A driver receives a 3 point ticket on 1/1/20. If he is convicted of the violation, 3 points will be added to his license attached to 1/1/20.
- A driver receives a 6 point ticket on 1/1/20. If he is convicted of the violation, 6 points will be added to his license attached to 1/1/20. After the conviction he can expect a Driver Responsibility Assessment bill of $300 for the 6 points.
- A driver receives an 11 point ticket on 1/1/20. If he is convicted of the violation, 11 points will be added to his license attached to 1/1/20. After the conviction he can expect a Driver Responsibility Assessment bill of $675 for the 11 points. After the conviction he is also in danger of receiving notification from the DMV that his license will be suspended for accumulating 11 or more points.
- A driver receives a 3 point ticket on 1/1/20 and a 8 point ticket on 1/1/21. If he is convicted of both violations, 3 points will be added to his license attached to 1/1/20 and 8 points added to his license attached to 1/1/21. After the conviction for the second ticket he can expect a Driver Responsibility bill of $675 for accumulating 11 points in an 18 month period and he is also in danger of receiving notification from the DMV that his license will be suspended for accumulating 11 or more points. (1/1/20 and 1/1/21 are 12 months apart)
- A driver receives a 3 point ticket on 1/1/20 and a 8 point ticket on 1/1/22. If he is convicted of both violations, 3 points will be added to his license attached to 1/1/20 and 8 points added to his license attached to 1/1/22. After the conviction for the 3 point ticket, nothing will happen other than receiving the 3 points on his record. After the conviction for the 8 point ticket, he can expect a Driver Responsibility bill of $450 for accumulating 8 points on his record. What is important to note here is that this driver did not accumulate 11 points in an 18 month period and thus is not in danger of suspension. These two tickets were issued 24 months apart (1/1/20 and 1/1/22)
There are so many combinations of tickets and points and dates different drivers have that we’d never be able to set forth examples that match everyone’s situation but the basic rules above can be applied no matter how many tickets you have. Look at the dates of your violations and you can see how many points you have (or may have when a new traffic ticket or upcoming court date is considered) and where you may be in danger of accumulating too many points in any 18 month period if you are ultimately found guilty of your tickets.
How Long Do Points Stay On My License? When Will Points be Off My License?
We’ve discussed how long convictions and accidents and suspensions remain “visible” on a license for people to actually see if they run a record. We’ve also discussed how points are calculated for any given date for the DMV to determine when assessments may be due or even a suspension warranted. What about people asking if points are “off” their record yet? We are asked constantly if points are “off” my record by this date or that date and there really isn’t one straightforward answer. Consider the rules again for calculating a person’s point total. Now consider a person who has been convicted of a point carrying ticket issued in 2017 and asks us in 2020 whether those points are “off” their record yet. On one hand you have seen how this person can still be penalized in 2020 for points back from 2017 if it takes that long to complete a case. On the other hand, if this person received a new ticket in 2020, he would never need to worry about the points from that 2017 ticket getting added together for DMV calculations with the points from the new 2020 ticket. In one situation you could argue that the 2017 points were not off his record by 2020 and in the other you could argue that they were off by then. The concept of when a ticket is off one’s record really depends on the context of the overall individual situation.
How Do License Points Affect My Insurance Rates?
First, note that insurance companies do not care about your actual specific DMV point total. DMV points are a DMV measuring stick.When the NYS DMV took cell phone violations and changed them from zero to two to three points to five points, 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. It’s all the same to the insurer.
Many people think insurance companies care about points because they’ve heard the phrase “insurance points”. Most insurers do use an internal “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.
Consider seat belt tickets issued to a driver. 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 about the specific point value the DMV attaches to it. They can review these convictions and when the incident happened along with any suspensions or accidents that might also speak to your risk as a driver and set your rates accordingly.
The 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 to 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 differently from one another.
How Much Will My Insurance Go Up?
The fact is that there are just too many considerations to give a specific dollar amount. It will depend on your individual situation, policy, insurer, etc. That said, if you are curious about the specific incidents that insurers do consider in determining premium surcharges here’s a list.
According to New York insurance law, 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
- Convictions for certain violations, including the following examples:
- 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
- Filing a false insurance claim
However, surcharges are specifically not permitted for the following situations:
- 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)
- Claims are made under comprehensive or towing coverages
How Do I Get NY License Points Removed from My Driving Record?
A person could fight to remove a conviction from their record via appeal or other motion but this isn’t always worth the expense or likely to work. Time is another way–eventually items are no longer listed on your record or you may be out of danger in a particular 18 month period. The only real step that can work for everyone and provide immediate relief to some extent is a defensive driving class point reduction program.
The NY DMV calls their program the Point and Insurance Reduction Program (PIRP) This is the official name for a Defensive Driving Course or Motor Vehicle Accident Prevention Course. A class will subtract 4 points from your point total for the 18 month period prior to completion of the class. This point reduction will only be applied by the DMV for the purposes of avoiding a potential 11 point suspension. The point reduction from the class will not be used to subtract points for the purposes of calculating the Driver Responsibility Assessment due. Most insurance companies offer a reduction for completion of the class as well so it can have value even if you aren’t at the level of a potential point based suspension.
However, note that while a PIRP course can help you avoid a suspension, the points and conviction that put them there are still on your record for everyone to see.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About NY Driver’s License Points
If I Get Convicted of a Traffic Violation Out-of-State, Will That Affect My NY Points?
Only if the jurisdiction in which you received your ticket has a reciprocal agreement with the NY DMV. Currently there are only two such cities that do this: Quebec and Ontario.
Will I Always Get a License Suspension After Accruing 11 Points in 18 Months?
Not always. In some situations it will be automatically imposed by the DMV. In other situations it will be at the judge’s discretion (at the NYC TVB, it’s judge’s discretion). Whether it’s automatic or not, 11 is definitely the number to keep your eye on. Note that with a defensive driving class in the mix, one could accumulate up to 14 points and thus still remain under 11 total as four can be deducted.
Does Paying My Ticket Always Result in Points?
Pleading guilty to a violation means you will get whatever points come with that particular violation.
Can I Take a Class to Get Points Removed?
Taking a class allows you to reduce the amount of points calculated for an 18-month period by four. A class in NY though won’t be considered when calculating your point total for the purposes of a driver assessment. It will be for suspension calculations only.
You Can’t Game the System, But You Can Fight Your Conviction to Avoid License Points
What should a driver take away from all this?
- There is a difference between how long incidents actually sit visible on your total driving history and how long they may cause you any harm and count towards your actual point accumulation.
- There is no real 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 or otherwise trying to play the system. Rescheduling a case may be helpful when it comes to beating your ticket and avoiding a conviction but on it’s own it’s not a strategy that helps lessen the impact of any points you may get from a violation.
So what can you do?
- Try not to get tickets.
- If you do get tickets, try not to get them within 18 months of each other to avoid the points accumulating.
- Fight the ones you get. Try to avoid the convictions and points ever hitting your record.
- Take a defensive driving class every 18 months. This will afford you a potential 4 point reduction at any time should you need it.
If you have questions about your specific driving record or want help avoiding points from a recent traffic violation, we are happy to discuss your situation. Call Feifer & Greenberg, LLP at (888) 842-5384, or contact us online for a free consultation.