Question: In Massachusetts, how long do points remain on your driving record?

Answer: The Commonwealth of Massachusetts does not have a points system associated with your driver’s license.

In terms of your license status, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) cares a lot more about the number of violations you accumulate than points. While the RMV does not have a points system in place, your insurance company can have a surcharge points system.

When you break a motor vehicle law in Massachusetts, you may receive a citation. A citation may require that you pay a fine, lose your driving privileges, appear in court, or go to jail depending upon the penalties assigned to it.

Major traffic law violations, such as driving while intoxicated or leaving the scene of an accident, are criminal offenses that carry severe penalties and could cause you to lose your license. You can also lose your license through a series of traffic violations, such as driving above the speed limit or failing to obey traffic signals.

All moving violations are tracked in Massachusetts by the RMV and are recorded on your driving record. Moving violations can affect your state car insurance rates due to auto insurers’ points system.

The motor vehicle violations or at-fault accidents that are listed on your driving record are called surchargeable events n Massachusetts. Each surchargeable event counts toward possible license suspension. And, most out-of-state traffic convictions are counted as if they occurred in Massachusetts.

When your license can be suspended

If you’re convicted of three speeding violations within a 12-month period (not a calendar year), your driver’s license will be suspended automatically for 30 days. The 12-month period begins when you either pay or are found responsible for the first of the three citations.

Junior Operators (under age 18) face a tougher license suspension of 90 days for a first speeding citation and one year for any subsequent citation. For a first drag racing citation, a junior operator will be suspended for one year. A subsequent drag racing violation would result in a three-year suspension.

For adult drivers, if you receive three moving violations or other “surchargeable events” within a 24-month period you will be required to complete a driver retraining course within 90 days.  If you fail to do so, your license will be suspended indefinitely until you complete the program.

If you collect seven surchargeable events within a three-year period, your license will be suspended automatically for 60 days.

There is also an habitual traffic offender (HTO) designation that can be applied to motorists in Massachusetts.  You are considered an HTO if you’ve accumulated three major moving violations or any combination of 12 major or minor moving violations within a five-year period.  If found to be an habitual offender, you will receive a four-year revocation of your license. 

The RMV doesn’t discuss violations falling off of a driving record, but they appear to only go back five years for penalties associated with your license.

Violations and your insurance rates

Surchargeable events not only threaten your driving privileges, they also affect your private passenger motor vehicle insurance.

All car insurance providers in this Commonwealth used to use a surcharge points system, a program called the Safe Driver Insurance Plan (SDIP), to help determine your rates. However, Massachusetts introduced managed competition in April of 2008 and as part of this change to the auto insurance regulations here insurance companies are no longer required to use the SDIP to determine surcharges and points for at-fault accidents and traffic violations and apply credits for incident-free years. Instead, insurers may choose to develop their own merit rating plans or to continue using the SDIP.

The surchargeable points schedule that was in place prior to April 2008 and that may still be used by some Massachusetts insurance providers is as follows:

  • Major traffic violation (such as DUI) 5 points
  • Major at-fault accident (such as a claim over $2,000) 4 points
  • Minor at-fault accident (claim of $500 to $2,000) 3 points
  • minor traffic violation (such as speeding) 2 points

With the SDIP system your first non-criminal minor traffic violation isn’t counted and, thus isn’t subject to a surcharge. But, after your first violation, if this method is used by your insurance company the points start to add up and the cost of your insurance will rise. Under the SDIP if you have no more than three surchargeable incidents over the past five years, one point will be removed for each violation, for every three years of safe driving.

If you want more information on your Massachusetts’ driving record contact the Massachusetts RMV directly. If you want to see if your insurance company follows the SDIP or has a points system of their own for surchargeable events, contact your insurance agent for this information. The state insurance regulator should also be able to give you information on your auto insurance provider’s rating system since the rates must be filed with this state agency.