In Tennessee, every licensed driver has a set number of points attached to their license. If you’ve never had a ticket or caused an accident, you’ll be glad to know that you have a zero-point total. But as you make mistakes out on the road, you start to rack up points.
The number of points that go on your record vary depending on the severity of your violation. For example, if you were only speeding 1 to 5 mph over the limit, you’ll only have one point added to your license. But causing an accident in which someone else gets hurt will stick you with four points, and reckless driving means six points going on your record.
Why should you care? Under the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security’s adult points system, any time you rack up more than 12 points in a 12-month period, you risk a license suspension of six months or more.
But even if you have a high point tally, you might have a way to get your latest Tennessee traffic ticket off your record, helping you avoid everything from license suspension to higher car insurance rates.
So how do you get rid of the points from a Tennessee traffic ticket? Easy. Attend driving school.
If you’re approaching the 12-point limit, you should get a letter from the state. But you only get one advisory letter of caution within any five-year period, so make sure you stay on top of your points tally on your own.
If you hit the 12-point mark, you should get another letter. This isn’t just a heads up. It’s a notice of proposed license suspension. If you don’t act on it, your license will get suspended.
In most cases, your letter will notify you of an administrative hearing regarding your Tennessee driving record points. The letter should have a specific date, time, and location of that hearing. If you show up, you should be able to ask to complete a driver improvement course to avoid license suspension. At the hearing, you’ll learn if you need to take a four or eight-hour course to avoid suspension. Generally, more serious driving offenses and/or a higher overall point total will mean you’ll need the longer course.
If it’s your first time hitting the 12-point limit and you have fewer than 21 points in the last 12 months, you might be able to waive your hearing and elect straightaway to take the driver improvement course. This allows you to avoid license suspension without having to show up for a hearing — provided you complete the required driver improvement course.
If you’ve taken a driver improvement training to get a traffic ticket dismissed in the last five years and you got back to the 12-point limit, this is considered your second offense. At that point, you’re not eligible for more driver training to get a ticket dismissed. Instead, you go straight into license suspension.
From either the date of the letter assigning you to traffic school or the date of your hearing, you have 90 days to complete the required driver improvement training.
Don’t worry. You usually don’t need to take time off work or school or head to a location at a specific time to get your course completed. The state has approved some education providers to offer online driver improvement courses you can take at your own pace whenever you have the time. Both eight-hour and four-hour courses are available so you can meet the requirements laid out in either your hearing or your letter from the state. (Review your specific requirements, though, because some drivers are court-ordered to specifically take their eight-hour course in a classroom.)
Once you’re done with your course, submit your certificate of completion to the court to get your Tennessee traffic ticket dismissed — and to avoid license suspension.