We've discussed how safe driving points are earned and demerit points are assessed in Virginia (if you missed that, click here), and how long convictions and demerit points will be reflected on a Virginia driving record (if you missed that, click here), but what happens when demerit points start to accumulate in Virginia and what can a Virginia motorist due to offset the assessment of demerit points by the Virginia DMV?
The Virginia DMV is responsible for monitoring convictions, awarding safe driving points, assessing demerit points, and taking certain administrative actions which are required by Virginia law and are triggered by various factual scenarios.
The Virginia DMV keeps a close watch on young drivers in Virginia and when young drivers are convicted of moving violations or safety belt violations, the Virginia DMV springs into action.
Drivers Less Than 18 Years of Age
Virginia law requires every person convicted of a demerit point violation which was committed prior to the motorist's 18th birthday to complete a Driver Improvement Clinic within a specified period of time. If the motorist fails to complete the clinic as directed, the Virginia DMV will suspend his or her privilege to drive until the clinic has been completed. If a motorist is convicted of a second demerit point violation which was committed prior to becoming 18 years of age, the Virginia DMV will suspend the privilege to drive for 90 days. A third conviction for an demerit point offense committed prior to the 18th birthday will result in the Virginia DMV revoking the motorist's privilege to drive for one year, or until the motorist reaches 18 years of age, whichever is longer.
Drivers 18 & 19 Years of Age
Under Virginia Law requires every motorist convicted of a demerit point violation or safety belt violation committed when the motorist was 18 or 19 years old to complete a Driver Improvement Clinic. Again, failure to complete the clinic as directed will result in the Virginia DMV suspending the person's privilege to drive until the clinic is completed.
The Virginia DMV is responsible for facilitating and tracking the completion of the clinic by these young motorists. These requirements to complete a Driver Improvement Clinic are not triggered by the accumulation of a specific number of demerit points, but rather by the conviction of a specified offense committed by a young motorist.
In addition to requiring young drivers to complete a Driver Improvement Clinic after convictions for certain offenses, the Virginia DMV will take action if demerit points begin to accumulate.
The first action taken by the Virginia DMV which is related to the accumulation of demerit points is to send a letter designed to get the attention of the motorist when the motorist has accumulated a certain number of demerit points (8 points in 12 months or 12 points in 24 months). This notice from the Virginia DMV does not require the motorist to take any action - it is simply designed to get the attention of the motorist by informing the motorist that he or she has made the radar at the DMV and reminding the motorist about the consequences of violating the law.
If the letter from the Virginia DMV proves ineffective and demerit points continue to accumulate (12 points in 12 months or 18 points in 24 months), much like with young drivers the Virginia DMV will again attempt to get the attention of the motorist by requiring the motorist to complete a Driver Improvement Clinic within a specified period of time. If the motorist fails to attend the Driver Improvement Clinic, the Virginia DMV will administratively suspend the person's license to drive until the Driver Improvement Clinic is completed.
Motorists who get to this point will be unhappy to learn that they will be under the microscope with the Virginia DMV for the next two years. Initially the motorist will be placed on probation with the Virginia DMV for a period of six months, during which any conviction for a moving violation will result in a suspension of the person's privilege to drive for 45, 60 or 90 days, depending on the particular violation involved. If the person successfully completes the six month probationary period, they will then be placed into an 18 month control period during which any conviction for a moving violation will result in another six month probationary period and start the two year cycle again.
If this still doesn't do the trick and demerit points continue to accumulate, once the motorist has accumulated 18 points in 12 months or 24 points in 24 months the Virginia DMV will suspend the person's driving privilege for 90 days and the person will be required to complete a Driver Improvement Clinic before having the privilege to drive restored.
The matter of point assessment is further complicated by the fact that insurance companies have their own point systems. However, points assigned by insurance companies are in no way related to the points assessed by the Virginia DMV.
Virginia Driver Improvement Clinic
In order to offset the assessment of demerit points by the Virginia DMV, a motorist can voluntarily enroll in and complete a Driver Improvement Clinic. Doing so will result in an award of five safe driving points. Although one can take the Driver Improvement Clinic as often as one wishes, the five safe driving points can only be awarded once every two years. It is also important to remember the highest point balance possible in Virginia is a +5, so if one were already above zero points and voluntarily completed a Driver Improvement Clinic, the person would not receive the full benefit of the five safe driving points.
For example, consider these two different scenarios.
Driver A has a -3 point balance and voluntarily completes a Driver Improvement Clinic. Since Driver A's point balance was so low, all five safe driving points could be applied and the point balance would move up to +2.
Driver B has a +3 point balance and voluntarily completes a Driver Improvement Clinic. Since Driver B's point balance was already higher than zero and the maximum point balance is +5, only two of the five safe driving points can be applied.
Understand the Virginia Demerit System
If you need further help understanding the Virginia demerit system contact our law firm by calling (703) 361-6100 or filling out a contact form here.