You start with a clean slate when you first get your Virginia driver’s license, but it can soon become either a good record or a bad record depending on your driving. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) gives you demerit points (“minus” points) for every traffic violation, and a safe point (“plus” point) for every year you drive without violations. Your points will accumulate on your record, reflecting how you are as a driver and also determining whether or not you face penalties.
Virginia Driver Demerit Points
Every time you are convicted of a traffic infraction, you will get the corresponding number of demerit points. These points will stay on your record for two years from the date you committed the violation.
Each traffic infraction in Virginia can cost 3, 4, or 6 points. Here are some examples:
3-Point Traffic Violations
- Driving over the speed limit by 1 to 9 mph
- Disobeying traffic signs or signals
- Attempting an improper U-turn
- Turning left while the light is red
For a full list of 3-point traffic violations, click here.
4-Point Traffic Violations
- Driving over the speed limit by 10 to 19 mph
- Failing to yield right of way to pedestrians or emergency vehicles
- Following too closely
- Using an improper signal.
For a full list of 4-point traffic violations, click here.
6-Point Traffic Violations
- Driving over the speed limit by 20 MPH or more
- Driving while intoxicated (DWI/DUI)
- Street racing
- Driving on a suspended license.
For a full list of 6-point traffic violations, click here.
What Happens If I Get Demerit Points?
Acquiring demerit points could mean your license will be suspended or revoked. You may also be required to attend a driver improvement clinic. This penalty system is stricter for younger drivers since they have been found to pose higher accident risks.
If you are 20 years old or older, you face a potential license suspension if you’ve collected 12 points in 12 months, or 18 points in 24 months. You’ll need to attend a driver improvement clinic within 90 days to avoid a suspension. But if you have accumulated 18 points within 12 months, or 24 points within 24 months, a 90-day license suspension will be automatic. You then have to attend the driver clinic if you want your license reinstated.
If you are age 18 or 19, any demerit point will require you to attend a driver improvement clinic. If you fail to do so, your license could be suspended or you could face a different penalty.
If you are under 18, you face a potential license suspension if you’ve gained any demerit point, or if you commit a safety belt infraction or a child safety restraint violation. You must attend a driver improvement clinic within 90 days in order to avoid a suspension.
However, other violations will automatically suspend your license: 2 convictions of any point infraction will suspend your license for 90 days, and 3 convictions of any point infraction will suspend it for a year or until you turn 18 years old.
Regardless of your age, some more serious driving violations in Virginia result in automatic license suspension or revocation. These violations include DUI, certain drug offenses, driving without a license, and causing a fatal vehicle accident.
Virginia Safe Driving Points
Negative points on your record can be offset by the positive Safe Driving points. You get one plus-point for every calendar year where you have zero traffic violations or suspensions. Every two years, you may also voluntarily attend the driving improvement course to get +5 points. However, the maximum number of plus-points you can keep at any given time is +5. This is considered a perfect record.
Having a positive point record is an advantage. A positive record can protect you from the penalties of accumulating demerit points. For example, if you are an adult driver with 4 safe points, and then you get a ticket with 3 demerit points, you wouldn’t have to worry about the penalty yet since you still have 1 positive point left. Positive points are awarded in April of each year.
Another benefit of a plus-point balance is that it helps your case if you have to go to traffic court. A positive record shows that you have been a good driver, which influences how police officers and judges may deal with you.
Note, however, that this entire DMV point system does not have anything to do with your insurance. Your insurer may implement its own methods for determining the seriousness of a traffic violation, so you may want to check with them for details.
If you have any questions regarding the Virginia DMV point system and how it affects your driving record, we at Holcomb Law are ready to give you case-specific answers.