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In Massachusetts, the bad driver point system is called "surchargeable points" and is based on the state's Safe Driver Insurance Program. Massachusetts is a state where auto insurance rates are set by the government. So the state's auto insurance companies and the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) work closely together to develop systems that work for everyone involved.
The Safe Driver Insurance Program allows insurance companies to issue surcharges or discounts on insurance premiums based on driving records. So if you have a poor driving record, Massachusetts will hit you with both mandated insurance surcharges and will also count "surchargeable events" that can result in suspension of your driver's license.
Every time you are convicted of a moving violation―like a speeding ticket, for example―you get a "surchargeable event" on your record and a resulting charge on your insurance bill. The same holds true for criminal motor vehicle violations, like driving while under the influence of alcohol.
You will also get a surchargeable event on your record and a surcharge on your bill for any motor vehicle accident in which you were ruled at fault or for which your insurance company pays out more than $500 in claims.
On the other hand, a clean driving record can reduce your auto insurance costs, lowering premiums in some cases by up to 17 percent.
The following surchargeable point schedule reflects point assignments in Massachusetts:
- Major traffic violation (such as DUI): 5
- Major at-fault accident (such as a claim over $2,000): 4
- Minor at-fault accident (claim of $500 to $2,000): 3
- Minor traffic violation (such as speeding): 2
You get a free pass on the first non-criminal minor traffic violation, which will not be subject to a surcharge. After that, the points start to rack up.
In terms of your license status, the Massachusetts RMV cares a lot more about the number of violations you accumulate than the points, which have more to do with your insurance coverage (see below). Here's how surchargeable events affect your license:
- If you are found responsible for three speeding violations within 12 months,your driver's license will be suspended automatically for 30 days.
- If you collect five surchargeable events on your driving record within three years, you will receive a letter from the RMV instructing you to complete a driver retraining program. You must complete it within 90 days or your license will be suspended until you do complete the course.
- Collecting seven surchargeable events within a three-year period will result in an automatic 60-day suspension.
- If you're a junior operator (younger than 18), you face a license suspension of 180 days for any combination of two speeding or drag racing violations, and a one-year suspension for a third violation.
But remember, this is only part of the damage. Your insurance company is going to raise your rates for every surchargeable event and will reduce your rates for a long-term clean driving record.
If you need or want to check the status of your driver’s license, you might want to order a driving record report. This record will spell out if your driver’s license is currently valid. Should your license have been revoked or suspended, the report will indicate that according to what’s on record at the RMV. This report will also show points against your license and, in some cases, information on any accidents you have had.
The whole idea of the Massachusetts Safe Driver's Insurance Program is to charge bad drivers more and safe drivers less. It makes sense overall. Why should good drivers subsidize those who drive dangerously and make more insurance claims? The point system basically attempts to punish bad drivers and reward good ones.
The more points you have, the higher your premiums. So, point accumulation breaks down like this:
If you have been driving for less than six years, each point makes your premium in four areas of coverage (bodily injury liability, property damage liability, personal injury coverage and collision coverage) go up by 7.5 percent.
If you have been driving for more than six years, each point makes your premium in four areas of coverage (bodily injury liability, property damage liability, personal injury coverage and collision coverage) go up by 15 percent.
This can add up fast. Add two points for a speeding ticket and you're paying up to 30 percent more on those four parts of your auto insurance policy for the next three years. Say you're paying about $1,000 for coverage in those four areas. All of a sudden, you're now paying a minimum of $1,300 for at least the next three years.
The other side of this is the "excellent driver discount." Keep a clean driving record for five years and your premiums drop by seven percent. Add another year with no violations or accidents and you can save up to 17 percent on your premiums.
In terms of insurance costs, you can work surchargeable points off your record, but it's going to take a while. 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.
There is no other way to reduce points and surcharges from your record, unless you choose to appeal the finding or challenge it in court. The Massachusetts driver retraining program does not remove or reduce point totals.