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Speeding & Traffic Tickets

by Jim Slaughter

Originally published as "Speeding Violations Affect Driving Record and Wallet" in The Business Weekly of the Greensboro News & Record

 

Speeding/traffic tickets are the first contact many people have with the criminal justice system.  In Greensboro alone over 8,000 traffic tickets were written from January to August of this year (more than 33 per day).

The final disposition of a speeding ticket can affect your driver's record and wallet for several years.  In addition to the concern of having your driver's license suspended, speeding tickets can result in driver's license points and insurance points.

Losing Your License

Driving privileges can be suspended when the history of a driver suggests that he is a danger to himself or others.  A first suspension is usually not more than sixty days, the second not more than six months, and any subsequent suspension not more than one year.  A license can be suspended for convictions of using a driver's or learner's permit fraudulently, illegally transporting alcoholic beverages, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Speeding violations alone can also lead to driving privileges being suspended.  The North Carolina General Assembly has provided by statute for instances in which speeding convictions can result in a lost license.  For example, any person convicted of speeding more than 15 m.p.h. over the speed limit in a 55 m.p.h. zone faces suspension.  At faster speeds, suspension can occur at only 10 m.p.h. over the speed limit.  A single conviction of speeding in excess of 75 m.p.h. where the maximum speed is less than 70 m.p.h. can lead to suspension.

Driving privileges can also be suspended for repeated violations.  Suspension will occur when a driver is convicted of two or more offenses within a one-year period of speeding faster than 55 m.p.h., but not more than 80 miles per hour.  Repeated convictions of speeding violations resulting in excessive driver's license points within a three-year period can also lead to suspension.

Driver's License Points

The Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) maintains a record of convictions for every driver licensed in North Carolina.  Upon any conviction of motor vehicle violation, the DMV assigns a certain number of "points" to the driver's license.

All traffic violation convictions result in a certain value of points under North Carolina law.  These values range from one to five in order of seriousness.  For instance, a conviction for passing a stopped school bus carries the highest penalty of five points.  Convictions of reckless driving, following another vehicle too closely, driving on the wrong side of the road, and illegal passing all carry four points.  Convictions of running a stop sign, speeding in excess of 55 m.p.h., running a red light, or speeding in a school zone carry three points.  Most other moving violations carry an assignment of two points.

Driver's license points usually do not affect one's driving privileges.  However, too many points too quickly can have dire consequences.  As discussed earlier, driving privileges can be suspended when a driver receives repeated convictions within a three-year period.  Specifically, more than twelve driver's license points within a three-year period results in suspension.

However, the law provides partial recourse for anyone who has accumulated driver's license points.  A driver with as many as seven points may choose to attend a "driver improvement clinic" operated by the DMV.  Upon the successful completion of this clinic, three points are deducted from the driver's record.  Only one such deduction of driver's license points can be made within any five-year period.

Insurance Points

The imposition of insurance points is often more serious than driver's license points.  This is because insurance points, unlike driver's license points, directly impact the pocketbook.

The assignment of points on insurance premiums is also provided by North Carolina law.  The North Carolina Safe Driver Incentive Plan (SDIP) was designed to reward safe drivers with lower insurance rates.  The reverse effect is that drivers convicted of speeding violations can be charged higher premiums.

Like driver's license points, all convictions of traffic violations carry an assignment of insurance points.  However, the actual number of insurance points does not correlate directly with driver's license points.  While a single traffic violation may carry five driver's license points, some traffic convictions can carry twelve insurance points.  Reckless driving, passing a stopped school bus, and speeding in excess of 75 m.p.h. all carry four insurance points.  Speeding in excess of 55 m.p.h. but less than 76 m.p.h., following too closely, and illegal passing carry two insurance points.  Most moving violations carry one insurance point.

The effect of insurance points on insurance premiums can be significant.  Just one insurance point can raise basic insurance rates 15 percent.  Three points can cause a rate increase of 65 percent.  Five points will result in a 120 percent increase.  Twelve insurance points will result in a 400 percent increase.  At 400 percent, a $1000.00 premium would increase to $5,000.00.

Avoiding Points

Driver's license points can be prevented or reduced in one of three ways:

  1. having the charges dismissed,
  2. contesting the charges and being found not guilty, or
  3. being convicted of a less serious offense.

Conviction of a less serious offense may occur when the evidence is insufficient to convict on the charged offense, but the evidence is sufficient to convict on another less serious offense.  For example, a reckless driving conviction carries four driver's license points.  If this offense is converted to a different moving violation, the offense may only carry two or three driver's license points.

Like driver's license points, insurance points can be prevented or reduced by a dismissal or the conviction of a lesser charge.  There are also several special instances in which no SDIP point can be charged by law.  No insurance points can be charged for a conviction of speeding 10 m.p.h. or less over the posted speed limit, provided the driver has a clean record and the violation did not occur in a school zone.

A second exception to insurance points is to receive a PJC, or "Prayer for Judgment Continued."  A PJC is a determination of guilt by a jury or a court without any sentence being imposed.  No SDIP points can be charged for a PJC, but a household can only have one PJC every three years.

The following example demonstrates the workings of driver's license and insurance points.  Suppose you have been charged with driving 60 m.p.h. in a 45 m.p.h. zone.  By admitting guilt and paying the fine, you will receive three driver's license points and two insurance points.  Your 40% insurance rate increase will result in your premiums going from $1000 to $1400.

If you are convicted of the lesser charge of driving 55 m.p.h. in a 45 m.p.h., you save in several ways.  You will only be assigned two driver's license points, instead of three.  No insurance points will be assigned.  As a result, insurance premiums will not increase.

Finally, by obtaining a PJC on this same charge, you could avoid both driver's license points and insurance points.  However, only one PJC is allowed per household in any three-year period.  As a result, it's usually best to save this "ace in the hole" until you have no other options.

 

Articles are intended to provide general information and are not legal advice or a legal opinion. Specific questions should be directed to an attorney at Black, Slaughter & Black, PA., or to another lawyer.