Landing yourself a moving violation really stings in the moment, and hurts even more long term. If you are tired or not paying enough attention, a little mistake can cause you a whole bunch of problems down the line, the most disturbing of which being inflated insurance premiums if you have enough “points” on your license.
It’s common knowledge that “points” on your California driving record have a negative impact on your insurance rates, but exactly how that all works is not as widely understood. In your best interest, I am here to clear that up for you and any other California drivers who may be puzzled by that system.
How The California Driving Point System Works (Negligent Operator Points)
When you are convicted of a driving infraction in California, the DMV adds points to your license. These driving points are officially referred to as Negligent Operator Points and are part of the California Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS).
The most commonly committed offenses add one point, such as speeding or making an illegal U-turn. The system is a little bit wacky in that drug and alcohol-related offenses also add only one point.
If you are convicted of a violation that earns you two points, then you’ve done something really exceptionally bad, like transporting explosives or a hit and run. If you’d like to check out the full detailed list of point amounts by offense, that list can be found here.
As you can see from that very long list, there are a ton of ways you could mess up your California driving record without trying very hard. If you accidentally forget (as though you knew this one to begin with) to yield the right of way to a horseback rider and get caught by the fuzz, that could be one point on your license.
VIDEO: How The DMV Point System Works In California
CVC §12810 requires DMV to assign one point to any conviction “involving the safe operation of a motor vehicle upon the highway.” Examples of one-point CVC violations are:
A mechanical violation may be assigned zero or one point, depending on whether or not it affects safe operation. For example:
- 0 point conviction – No light on license plate
All two-point convictions are mandated by the CVC. These violations are considered more serious by the legislature because of the increased traffic safety risk. Examples of two-point convictions are:
Commercial Vehicle Conviction/Collision Points
- Under CVC §12810.5 (b)(2), a conviction is assessed one or two points.
- Under CVC §12810, a conviction which occurs during the operation of a vehicle requiring a Class A or B license, or any certificate or endorsement listed in the section, is given a point count of 1 ½ times its usual value.
- For example, a conviction of CVC §22348 (a), speeding, is a one-point violation. However, a commercial vehicle violation for the same offense is 1 ½ points
- DMV also assesses negligent operator points for traffic convictions California drivers receive in other states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Canada.
- Under CVC §13363, DMV determines whether the same violation, if committed in California, would be assessed negligent operator points or would be grounds for suspension or revocation.
Points resulting from out-of-state convictions may form the basis, or part of the basis, for a NOTS action.
- If a California driver has a collision out of state, it may be reported to DMV through the Problem Driver Pointer System (PDPS), National Driver Register or out-of-state law enforcement agencies.
- These collisions are entered on individual records and report the date and location of the collision. When there is not enough information to determine responsibility, these collisions are not assigned NOTS points. Therefore, no NOTS action is imposed.
- Exception: if the driver is suspended at Level III or IV and the collision occurs during a suspension when it is evidence of driving while suspended.
- When these reports are reviewed and it is determined that the driver was responsible, had been drinking, was injured, etc. the report is then updated onto the driver’s record and, if the driver was responsible, the collision adds a NOTS point to the record.
Conditions for Higher Point Count
Class A or B drivers are allowed a higher point count before they are presumed negligent under CVC §12810.5, if the following conditions exist:
- They request and appear at a NOTS hearing.
- They do not hold any of the following special certificates or endorsements: Ambulance, School Bus, School Pupil Activity Bus, Farm Labor, Tour Bus, Youth Bus, General Public Paratransit, or Hazardous Materials.
- They do not have 4 or more points in 12 months, 6 or more in 24 months, or 8 or more in 36 months that are attributable to the driver’s operation of a vehicle requiring only a class C license and not requiring a certificate or endorsement, or a class M license.
Class A or B drivers meeting all the above conditions are considered prima facie negligent operators if they have the following point count accumulated on the driving record:
- 6 points in 12 months
- 8 points in 24 months
- 10 points in 36 months
Driving Points On Your California Driver’s License Can Cause Many Problems
The consequences of getting a point on your license primarily depend on your insurance policy. That is to say– unless you start racking up a handful of them, and then it becomes a much bigger problem. For instance, if you accumulate 4 points in 12 months, your driving privileges may be revoked or suspended. Getting your ability to drive taken away is the opposite of fun, so it’s important to drive safely and legally.
The smartest thing to do after getting convicted of an infraction that would add a point to your license is to take care of it with a defensive driving course.
Otherwise, most points from minor infractions will automatically clear after 39 months, which is an upsettingly long time to be paying for a horse crossing ticket.
Taking Online Traffic School To Clear Points From Your California Driving Record
If you’ve never been through the process before, you’ve probably heard friends or family (maybe even enemies) complaining about having to go to traffic school. Traffic school refers to a defensive driving course that you can take to prevent a point from going on your driving record. Traffic school should not be considered a get-out-of-jail-free card for all points, as there are some limitations.
Only certain violations are eligible for traffic school, but if it was a moving violation that was less than a misdemeanor, you’re probably in the clear for a shot at a defensive driving course. If you do traffic school to avoid having a point on your record, remember that you won’t get another chance to do so for at least 18 months. The system that allows defensive driving courses to clear points off of your license was very legitimately designed to make you a better, safer driver. That way, you shouldn’t have to worry about getting any more tickets.
Taking Traffic School Online
I got a ticket a year or so back, and my uncle told me to check out iDriveSafely.com. His testimonial: “Less than twenty bucks and a few hours later, and my certificate of completion was automatically submitted to the court. My driving record is spotless to this day, and my insurance hasn’t gone up a cent. I was able to finish it all up in one day, but even if you split it up over a weekend, you can save your progress and pick up right where you left off. It was one of the most painless things I’ve ever done!” Surely this was too good to be true. But I made up my mind that I would look into iDriveSafely.com as soon as I got home that evening.
Upon logging onto iDriveSafely.com, I was struck by how clean and easy to navigate their site was. I quickly located their California Traffic School course, submitted my one-time payment of $19.95, and I was on my way. I selected the option of the online video course, which they claim to be the easiest traffic school in the state. Upon completing it, I have no reason to doubt that they’re right! As opposed to reading through pages of dry text and fighting the urge to fall asleep, I instead was treated to several informative (and, dare I say, even entertaining) animated movies and take a few brief and straightforward quizzes on the material covered. Upon completing the course iDriveSafely.com submitted my certificate of completion automatically to the court. It was really that simple! And wouldn’t you know it, my driving record is clean as a whistle and my insurance company is none the wiser!
The Best Online Traffic Schools In California For Clearing Points From Your Driving Record
If you do want to take online traffic school to take points off of your California driving record, you have a ton of options. The state of California has approved hundreds of online traffic schools. As you might expect, the vast majority of them are pretty low quality. You can check a list of all online traffic schools approved in California here, but these are the best online traffic schools you should consider for point reduction:
Top 4 Best Online Traffic Schools
So to you, my fellow motorist, I say: if you find yourself in a brush with one of our fine traffic enforcement officers, or if you just want to brush up on your knowledge of the California auto laws, and save some money off of your insurance bill, you can do nothing better than to cruise on over to a course like iDriveSafely.com. You’ll surely be glad you did!