If you’re learning to drive or have just received a ticket, you might have some questions about Michigan’s point system: What is a point? How many are bad, and how long do points stay on my record? You’ll find those answers, details about some common traffic violations, and their respective point values below.
What the Michigan Point System is and How it Works
Michigan state traffic laws assign points to your driver record once you’ve been convicted of a traffic-related wrongdoing. The amount of points you’ll accrue will largely depend on the severity of your infraction(s). For less serious violations, such as running a red light or speeding 10 mph over the limit, penalties usually range from one to three points. For more serious violations, such as operating while intoxicated and reckless driving, penalties range from four to six points.
These points will remain on your record for two years after the date of conviction.
How Michigan’s Point System Can Affect Drivers
If you accumulate too many points, the state of Michigan might put you on probation or suspend your driver’s license. If you rack up six or more one-point violations, or accumulate over 12 points within two years, the state will require you to take a reexamination course to see if you’re fit to drive. Each traffic violation can have specific consequences in addition to the points they carry.
Do Points Affect My Insurance?
In addition to a suspended or revoked license, you can expect hikes in your insurance rates. Michigan auto insurance companies have their own separate point system that they use to examine your driver record when determining your premiums. If they find that you’ve had many traffic violations and deem you an irresponsible driver, they’ll make you pay more in insurance. However, because the Michigan state point system and insurance company point systems are completely separate entities, it is entirely possible for your insurance costs to increase, even if no points are added to your state driver record. This is more common for minor offenses.
If this happens to you, it is possible in some instances to take a state-approved Basic Driver Improvement Course (BDIC) to expunge any minor offenses from your record in order to prevent incurring additional insurance costs.
Common Traffic Violations in Michigan and Their Point Values
Michigan’s five most common traffic violations are:
- Operating while intoxicated (OWI)
- Reckless driving
- Distracted driving
- Running red lights or stop signs
Here’s a breakdown of each and the amount of points they come with:
Speeding tickets are the most clearly tiered violations, and the points assigned depend on how fast over the speed limit you were driving. If you were driving 1-10 mph over, it will likely be recorded as a one or two-point violation. Driving 11-15 mph over the speed limit will land you three points, and 16 or more mph over the limit will be four points.
Although the numbers will vary by county, here’s a rough breakdown of the costs of speeding tickets in Michigan:
- 1-5 mph over the speed limit: $115.00-$145.00
- 6-10 mph over the speed limit: $125.00-$145.00
- 11-15 mph over the speed limit: $135.00-$155.00
- 16+ mph over the speed limit: $170.00 or decided by a court in certain cases
- Additionally, driving too fast for conditions, such as in heavy rain and snow, can carry a fine of its own.
Running a Red Light or a Stop Sign
Running a red light or stop sign is a three-point violation under Michigan law. This will typically land you a $100 fine assuming nobody is injured in the process.
Although running a red light or a stop sign in Michigan is a three-point offense, there are BDIC courses offered which can, when completed, reduce the points added to your record. Always remember to stop at yellow lights if you can safely, and to come to a complete stop at stop signs.
Reckless driving convictions carry the most severe consequences. Reckless driving means you were driving in a way that neglects and endangers the safety of people or property. If convicted, you could be sentenced to up to 93 days in jail, fined up to $500, or in some cases both.
If your reckless driving causes a serious injury, you could be subject to a fine between $1,000 and $5,000, up to five years in jail, or both a fine and jail time. If it causes death, you could be subject to a fine between $2,500 and $10,000, up to 15 years in jail, or both a fine and jail time.
Additionally, reckless driving convictions carry a hard license suspension. Unlike operating while intoxicated violations, reckless drivers aren’t eligible for a restricted license. So, if you’re convicted of reckless driving, you’ll be off the road for a minimum of 90 days, making reckless driving a traffic violation with some of the harshest penalties in the state of Michigan.
Because driving demands a motorist’s full attention, distracted driving in Michigan encompasses essentially any activity that takes your attention off the road—even for a second. Some activities that are considered distracted driving include:
- Using a cell phone or texting while driving
- Eating and drinking
- Grooming or doing makeup
- Reading navigation systems
- Changing the radio station, selecting a song or playlist from your phone, or anything else that takes your hands off the wheel and your eyes off the road
- Loud music
The Michigan State Police even lists talking to other passengers as distracted driving, so be aware distracted driving is an umbrella term under which many activities fall.
For the first offense, a distracted driving ticket will cost you $100. After your first offense, the cost goes up to $200.
While a distracted driving ticket for texting and driving usually won’t land you any points in Michigan, keep in mind that distracted driving can be considered reckless driving in certain cases, which carries much more serious consequences than a fine for a couple hundred dollars.
Operating While Intoxicated (OWI)
Operating while intoxicated (OWI) violations carry some of the most hefty fines and points. In Michigan, it’s illegal to drive drunk or while impaired by any other substance. OWI violations are six-point violations—the maximum number of points that can be dealt by a one-time offense.
Because of the severity of these violations and the dangers they pose to the public, Michigan takes swift action to penalize those who drive under the influence.
A bodily alcohol content (BAC) measurement of 0.08 or more is the threshold for driving while intoxicated offenses and will result in a mandatory six-month suspension of your license. A bodily alcohol content of 0.17 or more is considered high bodily alcohol content, and will result in a mandatory one-year suspension of your license.
Violations with either a BAC of 0.08 or 0.17 will both be ordered to participate in and complete a rehab, treatment, or self-help program. Additionally, if you violate either, you can be eligible for a restricted license earlier than the mandatory license suspensions.
If you had a BAC of 0.08, you might be eligible for a restricted license after 30 days of the suspension. If you had a BAC of 0.17, you might be eligible for a restricted license after 45 days, although this is contingent on the installation of an ignition interlock system on your vehicle.
If you’ve been convicted of an OWI offense before, these penalties will likely be harsher. You might be sentenced to jail time ranging from five days to a year, extensive community service, or potentially both.
An operating while intoxicated violation will automatically become a felony if it’s your third conviction, or if it causes serious injuries or death.
On top of all this and tons of other potential penalties, you’ll be charged a $125 license reinstatement fee if your license was suspended, revoked, or restricted. So long story short: don’t drive while under the influence.
Top Driver Driving Schools Can Help You Avoid Fines From the Michigan Point System in the First Place
If you’re worried about traffic violations or about your child as they learn to drive, Top Driver is your premier resource for driver education in Michigan. Each year, we spend over 15,000 hours in classrooms and 21,000 hours in cars with students preparing them to avoid fines by driving safely. Top Driver offers teen driver and adult refresher courses to prepare you for the road and avoid dealing with the Michigan Point System altogether.
So, ready to drive? Call 1 (800) 374-8373 or enroll today.
Because we care about your safety both on and off the road, we’re requiring all our students and teachers to wear masks during classroom and behind the wheel sessions, effective August 9, 2021. Additionally, we’ve implemented a vehicle sanitization process. Thanks for your understanding.
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