The points system in Virginia is sort of like a grading scale that allows for extra credit to boost your score. Every Virginia driver starts with a blank slate of zero points. They can then acquire positive points for good driving behavior, or demerit points when they get certain traffic tickets or are convicted of a traffic-related criminal offense such as reckless driving or DUI.
The number and nature of points on your driving record can make a difference when you’re charged with reckless driving. Virginia courts tend to be a little more lenient with drivers who have good driving histories, as evidenced by no points or positive points. Drivers who have acquired points — and thereby demonstrate problematic driving in the past — are less likely to be able to get a reckless driving charge reduced to a simple traffic infraction and may see stiffer penalties when convicted. The outcome of a reckless driving charge always will depend upon the individual case, but if you’re facing a reckless driving charge you’ll want to get a copy of your driving record and discuss with a traffic defense attorney how it may affect your case.
Traffic Offenses and Demerit Points
Traffic infractions and offenses fall into three categories in Virginia: three-point, four-point, and six-point violations.
Three-point violations include minor tickets such as improper passing, failing to obey a highway sign, or speeding less than 10 mph over the speed limit. The points you acquire from these violations generally stay on your license for three to five years.
Four-point violations are traffic offenses treated more seriously in Virginia. These include driving the wrong way on a one-way street, aggressive driving, following too closely, or speeding 10-19 mph over the speed limit. Four-point violations stay on your record anywhere from three to 11 years.
Six-point violations are the most serious types of violations. Usually they’re no mere traffic tickets, but criminal offenses. These include DUI, involuntary vehicular manslaughter, and reckless driving. The points you accrue from being convicted of one of these offenses stay on your record for 11 years.
Consequences of Demerit Points
In addition to potentially affecting the outcome of your reckless driving charge, demerit points can lead to your having to complete a driver improvement clinic or even to your driver’s license being suspended.
When you get 12 demerit points in the space of a year as an adult, or 18 points within two years, the DMV will require that you take and finish a driver improvement clinic to avoid suspension of your driver’s license. A driver improvement clinic is a course that teaches you good driving and how to avoid accidents. When you’re ordered to complete a driver improvement clinic and you fail to do that by the deadline set by the DMV — usually 90 days — your license is suspended.
When you get 18 demerit points in a year, or 24 points in two years, the DMV will suspend your license and require you to complete a driver improvement clinic before your license is reinstated.
The rules are a little different if you’re a minor. If you’re under 18, you’ll have to take a driver improvement clinic any time you’re convicted of a seat belt or child restraint violation, or any traffic infraction or violation that adds demerit points to your license. The class usually has to be completed within 90 days or your license is suspended until you finish it.
If you’re 18 or 19, the DMV will make you take a driver improvement clinic for any seat belt or child restraint violation, or any violation that adds demerit points.
How to Gain Positive Points
Virginia allows you to accrue up to five positive points on your driving record at a given time. For every year that you demonstrate good driving behavior, the DMV adds one positive point. You also can earn points by voluntarily attending a driver improvement clinic. You can get five positive points for completing a good driver class, and you can do that every two years, but you can never have more than a total of five positive points on your record.
The DMV website allows you to search for driver improvement courses in your area that meet DMV criteria.