Tennessee’s Traffic Violation Point System

How Tennessee’s demerit point system works, including how points can lead to license suspension.

In an effort to maintain highway safety, Tennessee records the traffic violations of each license holder in to identify drivers who have “continuous disrespect for traffic laws and disregard for the safety of other persons.” The state keeps track of violations using a point system called “Tennessee’s Driver Improvement Program (DIP).” The number of points assigned to a violation depends on the severity of the offense. Drivers who reach a certain number of points may face suspension or other penalties.

Point Values for Common Violations

Traffic violations in Tennessee are assigned the following point values.

Violation

Points assessed

Speeding 1 to 5 miles per hour over the limit

1 (2 if in construction zone)

Speeding 6 to 15 miles per hour over the limit

3 (4 if in construction zone)

Speeding 16 to 25 miles per hour over the limit

4 (5 if in construction zone)

Speeding 26 to 35 miles per hour over the limit

5 (6 if in construction zone)

Speeding 36 to 45 miles per hour over the limit

6 (8 if in construction zone)

Speeding 46 or more miles per hour over the limit

8

Unspecified speeding violation

3 (4 if in construction zone)

Speed under posted minimum

3

Speed too fast for conditions

3

Erratic operation or sudden lane change

3

Reckless endangerment

8

Reckless driving

6

Careless or negligent driving

4

Failure to obey traffic instructions (signs and signals)

4

Improper passing

4

Wrong way, side, or direction

4

Following improperly

3

Failure to yield right-of-way

4

Failure to yield for emergency vehicles

6

Improper turn

3

Failure to signal

3

Obstructing traffic

3

Coasting

3

Driver view obstructed

3

Inability to maintain control of vehicle

3

Improper operation of motorcycle

3

Improper lane or location

3

Use of controlled access highway

4

Inattentive driving

3

Unspecified traffic violation

3

Cellphone use

6

Passing stopped school bus

8

License restriction violation

6

Failure to stop at railroad crossing

8

Leaving scene of accident

5

Failure to report accident

4

No license in possession

2

Driving without a license

3

Driving while suspended

8

Fleeing law enforcement

8

Child endangerment

8

Contributing to crash with property damage

3

Contributing to crash with injury

4

Contributing to crash with fatality

8

Violations occurring in commercial vehicles are typically assigned higher point values.

Consequences of Accumulating Too Many Points

The accumulation of too many points will result in license suspension but the penalties and limits differ for minors and adults.

Adults. Drivers who are at least 18 years old will receive a warning letter after receiving six points in a year. Getting 12 points in a single year will result in a notice of proposed suspension. The notice will indicate the possible length of suspension and an administrative hearing date to contest the suspension. The driver then has three options after receiving a proposed suspension notice:

  • Appear at the hearing. The driver can appear at the hearing and argue the validity of the suspension. If the suspension is affirmed, the driver’s license will be suspended for six to 12 months. A driver with a prior DIP suspension within the last five years will be suspended for 12 months.
  • Waive the right to a hearing. Drivers who waive the right to a hearing may be eligible for probation. The driver will be required to complete a defensive driving course and then be placed on 12 months of probation. During this time, traffic violations can result in revocation of probation and license suspension.
  • Not appear at the hearing. Drivers who choose to skip the hearing (without a formal waiver as described above) will be automatically be suspended for six months. A driver with a prior DIP suspension in the last five years will be suspended for 12 months.

Minors. Drivers under 18 years old are subject to tighter point limits as well as additional licensing penalties for accumulating points. Drivers holding a learner’s permit or intermediate license who accumulate points can be prohibited from obtaining the next level of driver’s license for 90 to 180 days. As with adults, minors should receive a warning letter prior to actual suspension, but after reaching six points, a notice of proposed suspension will be issued. After receiving such a notice, the minor driver has two options:

  • Appear at the hearing. The administrative hearing officer will review the record to ensure the suspension is valid. If the officer determines the basis for suspension is valid, the driver’s license can be suspended for three to six months and the driver can be required to take a defensive driving course. Suspension and the driving course are mandatory if the driver has ten or more points. A driver with a prior DIP suspension will be suspended for six to 12 months along with being required to complete the driving course.
  • Not appear. Drivers who choose to not appear at their hearing will be suspended for six months and must complete a defensive driving course. A driver with ten or more points or who has a prior DIP suspension will be suspended for 12 months and must still complete the driving course.

Juvenile Probation. A minor facing suspension can request Driver Services to grant probation in lieu of suspension. The applicant must show that the extreme circumstances exist, such as serious illness or military deployment. For good cause, Driver Services can grant probation for juvenile first offenders for 12 months or until age 18. The minor must still complete any defensive driving course that may have been ordered.

Restricted license. Drivers over 18 years old are permitted to apply for a restricted work license through Driver Services. The license will have certain restrictions regarding travel but can typically be used to get to and from work or school.

Reinstatement. After the suspension period, drivers must also pay a reinstatement fee and provide and maintain proof of insurance for three years.

How to Reduce Points

A driver can reduce the points for a violation by paying the fine prior to its due date. A prompt fine payment will reduce the points for violations that are at least three points by two points and two-point violation by one point.

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