Whether you’re playing a game or earning frequent flyer miles, racking up points is usually a good thing. But when it comes to your driver’s license, points are something you definitely want to avoid.

If they’re not the type of points you try to score, then how do you get points on your license?

In most states, the Department of Motor Vehicles uses a point system to keep track of drivers who develop dangerous habits on the road. Each state has its own rules, but points can be given for violations like speeding tickets, running a red light, or causing a major accident. If you begin accumulating driver’s license points, you could be charged more for auto insurance — and even get your license suspended.

The good news is that points won’t haunt you forever. However, the exact rules will depend on where you live. Here’s what you need to know about driver’s license points and how they can affect what you pay for auto insurance.

1. The DMV Tracks Your Driving Record

Just because someone has passed the written exam and driving test to obtain their license, it doesn’t mean that they will keep obeying the rules of the road. That’s why the DMV monitors driving records and flags people who continue to demonstrate problematic behavior. Most states keep track of this using a point system, where you accrue points on your license if you commit traffic violations.

2. You Get Driver’s License Points for Violating Traffic Laws

Here’s a quick look at traffic violations that can lead to points on your license:

  • Speeding
  • Disregarding a red light or stop sign
  • Following too closely (aka tailgating)
  • Causing a serious accident
  • Driving under the influence
  • Failing to yield right of way
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road
  • Not yielding to an emergency vehicle
  • Leaving the scene of an accident
  • Attempting to flee from a police officer

This list isn’t exhaustive, so you should check with your local DMV for a full list of violations that can result in driver’s license points.

3. Correctable Violations Won’t Go On Your Driving Record

Driver’s license point systems are meant to discourage unsafe driving, so you won’t always get dinged for minor offenses. Violations like “fix it” tickets — for a broken taillight, as an example — typically won’t lead to points because they’re considered correctable. These violations can be wiped from your record if you submit proof of correction to the court and pay a fee by the deadline. However, make sure to follow the specific instructions in your area to get your case dismissed.

4. How Many Points You Receive Depends On the Violation

The driver’s license point system doesn’t tally the number of violations you’ve committed. In other words, it’s not as simple as getting 1 point per violation. The number of points are weighted based on the level of negligence instead. In Alaska, for example, you would receive 2 to 6 points for speeding but 10 points for a DUI.

5. Every State Handles Driver’s License Points Differently

How many points is a speeding ticket? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t standard.

The number of driver’s license points you’ll receive depends on not only the type of violation but also your state of residence. The same violation could be worth a different number of points in a neighboring state. For example, speeding in Arizona will cost you 3 points on your license, while speeding in Nevada could get you 1 to 5 points, depending on how fast you were going.

6. Driver’s License Points Stay On Your Record for at Least 1 Year

Even the best drivers can make mistakes, so how long do points stay on your license? The answer depends on where you live and the severity of the violation.

For example, in California, most violations stay on your record for three years, but 2-point violations are reported for 10 years. In Florida, points remain on your record for at least five years. And, in Utah, you can get half of the points on your driving record removed if you drive for one year without a moving traffic violation, or all the points removed if you avoid violations for two years.

7. Your License Can Be Suspended If You Rack Up Too Many Points

You can’t go on accumulating points forever without running into the consequences ⁠— namely, getting your driver’s license suspended. However, the exact number of points it takes to temporarily lose your license will depend on your state:

How Many Points Can You Get on Your License Before It’s Suspended or Revoked?

8. You Can Look Up How Many Points You Have on Your License

If you’ve been pulled over recently, you might be wondering, “How many points are on my license?” In states that use a driver’s license points system, this information is part of your driving record. You should be able to request your driving record online, via mail, or in a field office, and it may cost a small fee. You can contact your local DMV to find out specific details on how to check driver’s license points.

9. License Points Are Tied To What You Pay For Auto Insurance

Your auto insurance rate is determined in part by your driving history — including any traffic violations or accidents. Insurers can raise your premium based on what are known as chargeable incidents:

  • In a chargeable accident, you were the at-fault driver who caused property damage and/or bodily injury.
  • In a chargeable violation, you committed a traffic violation — whether it was speeding or a DUI.

So, chargeable accidents and violations can result in not only driver’s license points but also an increase in your premium. Unfortunately, auto insurance companies often aren’t lenient about raising your rate after an accident or violation. For example, depending on your insurer and where you live, one speeding ticket can increase your premium by an average of 20%, according to Mercury Insurance. The Insurance Information Institute says that these increases typically last for three years.

10. You Can Remove Points From Your Driving Record

Depending on where you live, the DMV may offer ways to get points taken off your license. For example, in Utah, you can reduce your driving record by 50 points once every three years by successfully completing a defensive driving course. In Georgia, a similar course can shave up to 7 points off your record once every five years. Keep in mind that the course must be established or approved by the court.

11. Points Won’t Hurt You Forever, but Violations Stay On Your Record

Now you know that you can temporarily lose your license by rapidly racking up points. After a certain amount of time has passed, however, those points usually won’t put you at risk of license suspension. At the same time, you should still drive as safely as possible, because the traffic violations tied to any points remain on your driving record. Auto insurance companies can see the full picture of any accidents and traffic violations — and charge you accordingly.

12. Driver’s License Points Follow You From State To State

If you get into an accident or commit a traffic violation in a different state, you can expect that your local DMV will wind up hearing about it. States may share information on traffic convictions, and your home state likely counts out-of-state infractions as part of your overall driving record. So, even if you’re renting a car on vacation across the country, make sure to stay vigilant and avoid careless driving behavior.

13. The Driver’s License Point System Isn’t Universal

While all states keep track of your driving record, not everyone uses a point system. Here’s a list of nine states where accidents or driving violations won’t add points to your license:

  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

However, even though these states don’t use points systems, you still risk having your license suspended after committing multiple violations. In Oregon, for example, you could lose your license for 30 days if you have four accidents or convictions in a two-year period.

14. Auto Insurers Use Their Own Methods To Evaluate Your Record

Although the DMV maintains your official driving record, car insurance companies don’t depend on state point systems. Insurers have their own ways of determining your premium — and rate increases — based on your driving history and other factors.

This also means that your insurance rate doesn’t have to go up when you mistakenly break a traffic law and get slapped with driver’s license points. For example, Allstate offers optional accident forgiveness coverage, which prevents your rate from changing after a car accident, even if you were at fault.

15. Some States Play a Bigger Role in What You Pay For Insurance

Insurers may use your credit-based insurance score, which predicts how likely you’ll file a claim, to help decide your premium. However, in certain states, this practice is banned or regulated more heavily. Similarly, your state could suggest the actual credits and surcharges that auto insurance companies apply to your policy. For example, Massachusetts’ Safe Driver Insurance Plan is a merit rating system that insurers can use to ensure drivers with points on their records are charged more for car insurance than those who have zero violations.

The Bottom Line on Driver’s License Points

Olivia Rodrigo’s song “Drivers License” was a record-breaking hit, but it didn’t mention the points that Rodrigo could accrue for unsafe driving practices. The reality is that you can’t escape your driving record — after all, both the DMV and your insurer are keeping an eye on how you behave behind the wheel. Accumulating too many points can raise your auto insurance rate and even result in the suspension or loss of your license. However, points won’t follow you forever, so it’s never too late to start making better decisions while driving.

Read about hidden auto insurance discounts.