• News
  • Your License, Your Responsibility: Understanding Michigan’s License Points System

Your License, Your Responsibility: Understanding Michigan’s License Points System

Your License, Your Responsibility: Understanding Michigan’s License Points System

If you’ve read or watched any of the tales of Harry Potter and his Hogwarts companions, you’re probably familiar with the precious but elusive points awarded to students for good behavior (or taken from them when a demerit is warranted). In fact, the phrase “Ten points to Gryffindor” has entered popular culture, four words happily uttered whenever someone does something exceptionally good. However, the opposite can also be true – especially if you’re pulled over by a law enforcement officer for irresponsible behavior on a Michigan highway. The kind of points you get in that situation won’t be helpful to your reputation… or to your wallet.

That’s because accumulating demerit points on your driver’s license can mean higher car insurance premiums and – if you build up enough points – you could even lose your driving privileges. Let’s take a moment to spell out how the Michigan point system works, and how you can almost magically save yourself from a pointy, costly problem.

How Do Points Get Added to My License?

 
Exceed the speed limit, make an illegal turn, run a traffic light or stop sign, cause a fatal accident, drive under the influence. All these infractions and more are reasons points can be added to your driving record. In fact, the state has published a comprehensive, 63-page book outlining the hundreds of ways Michigan drivers can receive driving demerit points. Points vary depending upon the severity of the offense. Here are a few examples, starting with some of the worst:

  • Driving while intoxicated – 6 points
  • Child endangerment – 6 points
  • Committing a murder using a vehicle – 6 points
  • Failing to stop after a personal injury accident – 6 points
  • Fleeing and eluding an officer – 6 points
  • Reckless driving – 6 points
  • Speeding more than 16 mph over the posted limit in a construction zone – 5 points
  • Drag racing – 4 points
  • Speeding more than 16 mph over the posted limit – 4 points
  • Speeding more than 26 mph over the posted limit on a freeway – 4 points
  • Running a stop sign – 3 points
  • Failing to stop for a school bus – 3 points
  • Running a red light – 3 points
  • Failing to yield to a pedestrian – 2 points
  • Tailgating – 2 points
  • Driving the wrong way on a one-way street – 2 points
  • Driving without required corrective lenses – 2 points
  • Driving with an expired license – 2 points
  • Open intoxicants in vehicle – 2 points

To check your current driver’s license points, Michigan offers an online portal where, for a small fee, you can retrieve your record. You can also visit a local Secretary of State office to request your record in person, or you can do so by mail (fees still apply). For questions, call their phone center at 888-SOS-MICH (888-767-6424).

What Do Points on My License Mean?

 
Essentially, the more points you accumulate, the worse the consequences you can face. The Secretary of State’s office sums it up as follows:

“When you receive four points in any two-year period, you will receive a letter advising you that you have more points than the average Michigan driver and need to be careful of your driving habits. At eight points, you will receive a warning letter which advises you that you are nearing the point where you will be scheduled for a reexamination if you do not improve your driving habits. At twelve points, you will be requested to come in for a driver reexamination at which time, your driving privileges could be suspended.”

In other words, accrue too many points and you could lose your license, and then you’ll have to go through a lengthy process to seek reinstatement. That can include having to ask for consideration at your local Office of Hearings and Administrative Oversight, or attending a hearing in Circuit Court to request that a judge remove the suspension. (Here are details on what you’ll need to do in this situation.)

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Because along the way to accumulating all those points, you’ll probably also face significant monetary fines, and even see jail time depending on the reasons behind the tickets you’ve been given. Then, there’s the impact of all this on your car insurance premiums …

How Much Can Points Cost Me on My Insurance?

 
Michigan auto insurance rates are already among the highest in the nation, and Detroit is America’s highest-cost city for car coverage. Plus, if you have points on your license, those charges can go even higher. WalletHub notes that just one Michigan DUI conviction can result in an average 186% increase in your auto insurance costs.

Of course, you’ll also have to pay fines when you get a traffic ticket. The TopDriver driving school notes that – depending on the Michigan jurisdiction where you commit the offense– you can expect to pay around $100 for running a stop sign or being ticketed for distracted driving, or a painful $150 for a speeding ticket. It can get even worse. A reckless driving fine starts at around $500, but that penalty can rise to $10,000 and 15 years in prison if you kill someone due to your bad driving – not to mention having to pay attorney fees and court costs… and facing the very real possibility of losing your job along the way because you’re unable to work due to jail time.

How Do I Get Rid of Points?

 
If all that sounds like an undesirable situation… that’s the point of points! They’re designed to discourage bad driving habits while encouraging safety on our state’s highways. Fortunately, points in Michigan are not permanently attached to your driving record. They automatically go away in two years. Or you can take a driver improvement course for some types of infractions to have points removed from your record sooner. You can also fight them in court, and there’s even a convenient online option to consider. Let’s discuss those opportunities so you can decide what works best for your situation.

Automatic point erasure happens two years after your points were earned. But traffic tickets remain on your record for seven years, which means violations can have a long-lasting effect on your record for car insurance purposes. So, you can try to wait out a small number of points, knowing that time is on your side. Drive safely, obey traffic laws, and you’ll be happily “pointless” 24 months after your last offense.

On the other hand, you may find it helpful to take a driver improvement course, which will make it possible for you to erase certain points from your record more quickly. Not all infractions are eligible for this program, but many minor traffic offenses can be effectively expunged. For example, the Secretary of State lists the following civil traffic violations (and numerous others) as eligible for reduction or removal if you pass a qualified “Basic Driver Improvement Course,” which can be offered online or in person:

  • Speeding 25 mph or less over the posted limit on a Michigan freeway (remove up to 3 points)
  • Improper passing (remove 3 points)
  • Failure to obey stop sign (remove 3 points)
  • Tailgating (remove 2 points)
  • Running a red light (remove 3 points)

If that sounds like a good option for you, take advantage of it! And, as we’ve mentioned, there is one more way you can attempt to have points removed or reduced, which is to go to court. There’s even a convenient online trial option whereby you can request that a police officer and magistrate consider your case and – if you’re fortunate – have your ticket reduced to an offense that carries no points. Check out the details on this innovative program that’s designed to make it possible for you to avoid having to personally appear in a courtroom to fight a traffic ticket.

A Qualified Attorney Can Also Help You if Needed

 
You can try to accomplish any or all these steps on your own, but you may be more comfortable (and perhaps get better results) by hiring an experienced traffic attorney to represent you and your interests in court. For more serious offenses, it’s certainly the best way to go, since taking matters into your own hands when you’re facing possible jail time is a risk few drivers should handle alone. While we deal with personal injury law and do our best to help innocent accident victims receive fair compensation for their pain and suffering, we can certainly recommend a qualified traffic attorney. Get in touch with us and you can be sure that we’ll refer you to a trusted advocate who will act on your behalf. Just give us a call at 855-MIKE-WINS (855-645-3946) or contact us online to describe your circumstances, and we’ll point you in the right direction.