New York State DMV Points & Insurance Demerit Points
The driving motivation behind most motorist’s desire to fight a New York speeding or traffic ticket is to avoid the “points.” In our experience however although almost everyone knows that it’s not a good thing to accrue points because they can cause insurance increases, additional fines, and license suspensions, they do not know or understand the specifics of the NYS Department of Motor Vehicle point system, and specifically how points can cause an auto insurance premium surcharge.
While both the DMV and insurance point systems are similar, they are separate and unique from each other and serve different ends and agendas. This article will outline what each point system is, the statutory and regulatory authority for each, and the similarities and differences in order to give you a clear explanation of both systems and the cause and effect that a moving violation conviction or insurance activity will have on your driving privileges and insurance rates.NYS Department of Motor Vehicle Moving Violation Points
The authority for the NYS DMV to accrue points and penalties to your New York driver’s license or driving history of you hold an out of state license is regulatory in nature. 15 New York Code of Rules and Regulation (NYCRR) § 131.3 gives the DMV the authority to assign Point values to various motor vehicle and traffic crimes and infractions. Under 15 NYCRR § 131.3, points are assigned for convictions as follows:
Speeding 31 to 40 miles per hour over the speed limit:
Speeding 21 to 30 miles per hour over the speed limit:
Reckless driving (also a misdemeanor), VTL § 1212:
Cell Phone, NY VTL § 1225:
Overtaking a school bus VTL § 1174:
Following too closely, NY VTL § 1129:
Speeding 11 to 20 miles per hour over the speed limit:
Inadequate service brakes, NY VTL § 375-1 :
Speed 1 – 10 MPH over the limit, NY VTL § 1180:
Speed not reasonable / no MPH assigned:
Any right of way violation:
Stop sign violation, NY VTL § 1172:
Red light violation, NY VTL § 1111:
Railroad crossing Violation, NY VTL § 1171:
Improper passing / lane change, NY VTL § 1122 – 1128:
Failing to drive right, NY VTL § 1120:
Leaving the scene / accident, NY VTL § 600:
Unrestrained child under 16, NY VTL § 1229-c:
All other moving violations:
In addition, while out of state moving violation crimes and convictions get reported to New York State under the Interstate Compact, and accrue to your permanent NY State driving record, New York does not accrue points to your New York license unless the conviction occurred in Ontario or Quebec.Effects of Accruing NYS DMV Moving Violation Points
Under 15 NYCRR § 131.4, administrative punitive action is triggered when a motorist accrues too various amounts of points in a fixed 18 month look back period. The date of calculation for the 18 month look back period is from the date the ticket was written, not on the conviction date. In other words, it is not relevant when the motorist was convicted. The only points that get added together to consider total point accrual are those tickets that were written within 18 months of each other.
The NYS DMV has 2 main agendas with assessment of points against a driver’s license:
(1) To suspend a license or require formal training upon the accumulation of certain amounts of points within the 18 month period; and / or
(2) To punish the motorist administratively by adding additional fines upon the accrual of at least 6 points in a given 18 month period
Mandatory license suspensions are triggered when the following points are accrued within the 18 month period:
- Accruing 11 or more points
- Accruing nine or more points from speeding convictions
- Accruing between 7 and 10 points requires participation in driver improvement clinic
The following fine(s), called a “driver responsibility assessment” is triggered when 6 or more points are accrued within an 18 month period. The assessment amounts are as follow:
6 Points: $300.00
Every point thereafter: $75.00
Furthermore, contrary to popular belief , points do not “fall off” a driving history in 18 months. Whenever you are convicted of a Vehicle and Traffic violation, that conviction and the points that accrued thereto stay on your driving history forever. The only way to remove points would be to bring [ coram nobis proceeding] before the court where you were convicted, requesting that the court vacate your conviction.Other Issues with Accruing DMV Moving Violation Points
While the DMV cannot look back more than 18 months to suspend or assess additional fines, a lifetime driving history is reviewed, considered, and can formulate the basis for a license suspension or revocation in 2 distinct scenarios:
- For relicensing after a revocation for an alcohol or drug driving while intoxicated / impaired conviction, under 15 NYCRR § 131.5 a lifetime review is required after a 3rd or successive conviction, which could lead to either a lengthy suspension or permanent ineligibility for re-licensing; and
- In the event a motorist is involved in an accident where there was a fatality, whether or not the motorist is at fault, the DMV always conducts a specialized hearing to determine whether the motorist is an unusually dangerous driver. In addition to the facts and circumstances of the accident, the motorist’s lifetime driving history is reviewed and considered in conjunction with the totality of the evidence at the hearing to determine whether the motorist’s license should be suspended or revoked.
The New York insurance point system is similar to, but separate from, the NYS DMV point system. The insurance point system is known as a “demerit system,” and is often referred to as a “merit system.” While the goal of the New York State DMV point system is to suspend, re-train, or punish irresponsible or dangerous drivers, the insurance merit point system’s agenda is to surcharge, or increase the insurance premiums, of dangerous drivers. The theory for this surcharge is that the more dangerous of a driver you are the more risk the insurer assumes to insure you and your vehicle against loss. Consequently, unsafe drivers must pay a higher insurance premium.
Similar to the DMV point system, the demerits that lead to insurance increases are triggered upon conviction of certain infractions and automobile crimes. In addition to the different agendas, the most striking difference is that the insurance companies do not directly follow the DMV system or even affix points to their demerits. Moreover, many violations and crimes such as DWI and driving without a license, which carry no DMV points, are nonetheless moving violations and major demerit violations which cause severe auto insurance premium surcharges.
While the insurance companies have broad latitude in determining their demerit system, they do not have unilateral discretion. The insurance companies must follow the guidelines of the NY Insurance Law and NY Insurance Regulations. These are codified in NY Insurance Law § 2334 and 11 NYCRR § 169. Under the statutory and regulatory scheme insurers may, within parameters set by law, formulate insurance merit plans reflecting an individual driver's experience and driving history regarding not only moving violations, but also accidents and claim history submissions. Insurers also do not have to follow rigid surcharge amounts, but are free to set their surcharges at their discretion, again within the broad parameters set out under law.
The flexibility the law allows is intended to give the insurers autonomy in creating their own insurance products to compete in the open market. The intent of the law is to foster an environment of completion, the goal being that competition instead of rigid regulations will ensure that the best product is offered to the consumer at the lowest prices.
One main prohibition under the law is that an insurance company can only look back at a driver’s history a maximum of 36 months to accrue demerits and consequently surcharge. An insurer is also prohibited from surcharging when a motorist is convicted of a single speeding conviction so long as the motorist was not convicted of speeding more than 10 MPH over the limit.
Further, unlike the NYS DMV, and auto insurer is not limited to just in state violations and can consider the activity and convictions of its insured that occurs outside of NY State. Insurers easily and readily have access to this data, because under the Interstate Compact all DMV’s report the convictions and activity of out of state motorists to their home state which gets recorded on the motorist’s lifetime driving history.An insurer is permitted to surcharge upon he following convictions:
- Single speed, 11 MPH or more (however, many insurers set their limit at 15 MPH)
- A single case of leaving the scene of any type of accident
- Speed contest
- Single speeding conviction when the speed was related to a fatality
- Reckless driving
- Speeding, reckless driving, or any combination thereof, on three or more occasions
- DWI / DWAI from alcohol or drugs
- Engaging the police in pursuit
- Operating without a valid license, registration, or insurance
- Two or more moving violations of the vehicle and traffic law
- Homicide or assault arising out of the use or operation of a motor vehicle
- Criminal negligence in the use or operation of a motor vehicle resulting in the injury or death of another person
- Use or operation of a motor vehicle in the commission of a felony
- Filing a false automobile insurance claim
- Using a license or registration obtained by filing a false document with the DMV
- Knowingly permitting or authorizing an unlicensed driver to operate a motor vehicle
- Accidents which cause property damage in excess of $2,000.00
- If the insured has 2 or more accidents in a 36 month period, then a surcharge can be imposed regardless of whether the $2,000.00 threshold is met.
- Personal injury accidents, but only if the motor vehicle was in operation and the motorist is deemed to be at fault
- Comprehensive claims
- The vehicle was lawfully parked
- The vehicle was struck in the rear and the motorist was not otherwise convicted of a traffic violation related to the accident
- The motorist is a hit and run victim, so long as the accident is reported to the police within 24 hours
- Prohibited from double surcharge when the accident is already a surchargeable event due to property damage in excess of $2,000
- The motorist was operating a non-commercial vehicle in the course of employment and the driver was not convicted for a moving violation
- The motorist was operating a commercial vehicle as an employee unless the accident was found to be caused by the intentional action or gross negligence of the motorist