Driving Instruction

Everything You Need to Know About the Virginia Driving Record Point System

December 29, 2021

Are you familiar with the safe driving points balance in Virginia? 

You’ve probably heard that getting traffic tickets can put “points on your license,” which can affect your insurance rates. 

But did you know that there are both positive and negative points? And do you know how to get points off your license in VA?

The Virginia demerit point system can be confusing. Without even knowing it, you may be paying higher insurance rates than you need to. Misunderstanding the system can even lead to having your license suspended unexpectedly!

To help you avoid these pitfalls, we’ll be answering the top questions about Virginia’s driving record point system. Starting with, what even is the safe driving points balance?

What is the “Safe Driving Points Balance” in Virginia?

In Virginia, the safe driving points balance is a scale of points on your license that shows how safe (or unsafe) a driver you are. Five is the highest positive score you can have, but there’s no limit to how far down you can go into negative numbers. 

It’s easy to get confused as to whether having “points on your license” is a good or bad thing. There are two kinds of points you can receive:

  • Positive points are called “safe driving points”
  • Negative points are called “demerit points”

When you get safe driving points, it raises your safe driving points balance. Demerit points, on the other hand, reduce your score. 

So when someone says, “I need help, I have 12 points on my license,” they probably mean they have a score of -12. They need to add safe driving points (or remove demerit points) in order to move up towards a positive score. 

How Can I Check My Safe Driving Points Balance in Virginia?

The DMV maintains the records of the Virginia demerit point system. You can check your point balance by logging in to your DMV profile through the DMV website. Only the DMV will be able to tell you your current safe driving points balance. 

The VA safe driving points program is distinct from your driving records. There’s a difference between the demerit points on your license and the convictions on your driving record. When the police ask to run a check on your license, they’re looking at how many tickets are on your driving records, not demerit points. 

So if safe driving points aren’t part of your driving record, you might wonder why they matter at all? The answer is that insurance companies often set their rates according to the number of points on your license. 

But even more significantly, if the DMV thinks your demerit points show you’re an unsafe driver, they can (and will) suspend your license.

How Many Points Does it Take to Suspend a License in VA?

According to the DMV, if you accumulate 12 demerit points in 12 months (or 18 points in 24 months), you’ll be required to complete a driver improvement clinic. You must enroll in and complete the clinic within 90 days.

If you accumulate 18 demerit points in 12 months (or 24 points in 24 months), your driver’s license will be suspended for 90 days. Additionally, you’ll be required to complete a driver improvement clinic. If you’re under age 20, an online driver improvement clinic won’t satisfy a driver improvement clinic requirement—you must complete a clinic that provides classroom instruction.

Once your license is restored, you’ll be placed on a six-month probation period. According to some law firms, if you’re convicted of another moving violation while on probation, your license will be further suspended (for a length of time dependent on the violation.) 

After completing probation, you’ll be placed on a “control” period. Getting a moving violation during the control period will result in going back on probation. 

Accumulating 18 points in a year may sound extreme, but believe it or not, those points can build up fast! 

In the Virginia Demerit Points System, Where Do Demerit Points Come From?

You can get demerit points every time you’re convicted of a “moving violation” (e.g., speeding, failing to use a turn signal, etc.). Depending on the severity of the violation, being convicted of different kinds of traffic violations results in different numbers of demerit points: 3 points, 4 points, or 6 points. 

Some examples of 3-point violations include:

  • Speeding 1-9 miles above the speed limit
  • Holding up traffic by driving below the speed limit
  • Driving without your headlights (or failure to dim your headlights)
  • Improper passing
  • Improper turning at a red light

4-point violations include actions like:

  • Failure to stop/yield right of way
  • Failure to stop for a pedestrian
  • Speeding 10-19 miles above the speed limit
  • Following too closely
  • Improper signaling

Lastly, some 6-point violations are:

  • Reckless driving
  • Driving intoxicated
  • Involuntary manslaughter
  • Driving on a suspended license

These lists include just a small sample of the full list of Virginia traffic violations, but that should be enough to give you an idea!

How to earn safe driving points in Virginia? 

We’ve talked at length about driving points and demerit point, so you may still be wondering how to get points off your license in VA.

Demerit points automatically disappear from your safe driving points balance in Virginia two years after each conviction. However, if you have lots of demerit points, it can affect your insurance rates and put you in danger of losing your license.

Instead of waiting for demerit points to disappear, it’s possible to earn positive, “safe driver points.” There are two ways to receive safe driver points:

  1. Licensed motorists receive 1 safe driver point every year that they have no moving violations. Points are awarded in April for the previous calendar year.
  2. Voluntarily attending a Driver Improvement Clinic at a driving school earns you an automatic 5 safe driver points. This can be done once every 2 years.

Note: It isn’t in the judge’s power to “go easy” on you by deciding that no points should be added to your point balance. According to Virginia’s demerit point system, demerit points are automatically added to your license by the DMV as a result of being convicted of a moving violation. For the best chance at avoiding points, always plead “not guilty” in traffic court. It’s often within the judge’s jurisdiction to choose whether to find you guilty of a more serious or less serious offense. 

Recommendations for Maintaining Your Safe Driving Point Balance in Virginia 

Virginia’s driving record point system can be confusing. Understanding the system is the first step towards keeping your points on the positive side of the scale!  

We talked a great deal about the VA safe driving point system in this article. In summary:

  • Your score on the safe driving points balance is the combination of your positive “safe driving points” and negative “demerit points” 
  • You get 3-6 demerit points on your license every time you are found guilty of a moving violation
  • If you get too many demerit points in a short time, the DMV can suspend your license 
  • You earn 1 safe driver point every year that you have no tickets 
  • You can earn 5 safe driver points by attending a Driver Improvement Clinic through a driving school

Our recommendation is to:

  1. Keep an eye on your points balance through the DMV website. It’s easy for points to sneak up on you! 
  2. Go to court and plead “not guilty” anytime you get a traffic ticket 
  3. Maintain your safe driver points in the positive range by attending a Driver Improvement Clinic as needed (up to once every two years) 

Colonial Driving School is a full-service driving school, ready to meet all your Driver Improvement Clinic needs. We offer in-person Driver Improvement Clinics for those who prefer to learn in a classroom while engaging with an instructor. For those who prefer the convenience of their own home and their own schedule, we also offer an online Driver Improvement Clinic which is fully DMV approved. 

Give us a call or explore our website to sign up for a class today and get positive points on your record!