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Virginia's demerit point system

On your commute to work, you probably witness countless traffic violations. Drivers are speeding, changing lanes without signaling, tailgating and even texting while driving. It can be infuriating, especially when you know that such behavior selfishly places your life and safety in danger.

If you are honest with yourself, you know that you have probably had more than one morning when your alarm clock didn't do its job, and you found yourself racing along Interstate 81, no holds barred, to get to work on time. If you ended up with a traffic citation, you may think it's no big deal. In Virginia, however, it can be a very big deal, and understanding the potential ramifications of violating the traffic code may prompt you to take the necessary actions to avoid a conviction.

Point values for different offenses

Like many states, Virginia uses a demerit point system, assigning points to your driving record for various violations. After you accumulate a number of points, you face certain penalties, such as mandatory driver improvement courses, probationary periods or license suspension. Additionally, if you wind up convicted in traffic court again, a judge who sees an accumulation of points on your record may deal more harshly with you for your current violation.

Unlike other states, judges in Virginia have no say in whether you get points on your license after a conviction. The Department of Motor Vehicles assigns points under a strict system. Depending on the violation, you may receive zero, three, four or six points, for example:

  • Three points: Speeding less than 10 mph over the limit, driving too slowly, driving without a license plate or making an improper U-turn
  • Four points: Speeding between 10 and 19 mph above the limit, unsafe passing, failing to stop for an emergency vehicle or failing to obey signals at a railroad crossing
  • Six points: Speeding 20 mph or more above the limit, driving while impaired, driving on a suspended license or causing someone's death in a traffic accident

Convictions for traffic violations can remain on your record up to eleven years, depending on the severity of the offense. However, the points are valid for two years from the date of the offense. Although the DMV does not automatically contact your insurer, the agency may share your driving record with an insurance company that requests the information. This means, along with the other consequences, points on your driving record may negatively affect your insurance rates.

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