Are you familiar with that sinking feeling in your stomach when you see flashing blue and red lights in your rear-view mirror? Maybe you went a little over the speed limit, rolled through a stop sign, or forgot to use your turn signal. Now you’ve got a citation for a traffic violation…and you may have a choice to make.

If you get a traffic ticket in Georgia, your citation will give you information about your options. Some infractions require a court appearance, while others allow you to simply pay the fine and associated fees – but this option may result in points being added to your driving record.

A Review of the Georgia Point System

In the state of Georgia, points are assigned for moving violations. The severity of the violation increases the points assigned. For example, speeding 15 miles per hour over the speed limit earns two points; driving 35 miles per hour over the speed limit earns a penalty of six points.

Other common traffic infractions and their points include:

  • Unlawfully passing a school bus – 6 points
  • Aggressive driving – 6 points
  • Reckless driving – 4 points
  • Improper passing on a hill or curve – 4 points
  • Failure to obey a police officer – 3 points
  • Possessing an open container of an alcoholic beverage while driving – 2 points
  • Operating a vehicle while text messaging – 1 point

Points are not added to your driving record for speeding convictions of less than 15 miles per hour over the posted limit or for convictions of “driving too fast for conditions.” Since the point system is specific to the state of Georgia, non-residents will not accrue points on their driving records for in-state infractions. The full Points Schedule can be found online at the Georgia DDS website.

Anyone who earns 15 points within a two-year period may have their license suspended and their driving privileges revoked. And even when you stay under the limit, the points on your driving record can impact your auto insurance rates – and even your credit score. Not sure how many points you have on your record? Visit the Georgia DDS Online Services website or download the DDS 2Go Mobile Services App to easily check your driving record.

Take a Defensive Driving Course to Remove Points

Georgia allows residents to remove up to seven points once every five years. Doing so requires completing an approved defensive driving course, either online or in person. You must visit your court on your assigned court date to request that you be allowed to remove points from your driving record, and you should do this prior to completing traffic school. Each judge has discretion on whether to allow the removal of points from your record.

Taking an online defensive driving course may be the fastest, easiest, and least expensive path for keeping your driving record clean. Once you complete your defensive driving course, you will need to present your certificate of completion to your court. You can either bring the original certificate in person to a Georgia Department of Driver Services Customer Service Center or send it by mail.

It is important to understand that removing the points from a traffic violation does not free you from your obligation to pay fines or fees to the court. The judge in your case may reduce or eliminate the fine related to your infraction, but you will still owe court costs and administrative fees. The real impact of your ticket dismissal comes from protecting your driving privileges and maintaining your auto insurance rate.

Alternative Options May Be Available

Of course, you always have the option of going to court to contest your traffic ticket instead of paying the fine or asking to have points removed from your record. If you believe that you received the ticket in error, it may be worth hiring an attorney and fighting the ticket. You will need to appear in court on the date noted on your citation; failure to do so will result your driver’s license being suspended until the case is resolved.

At this initial court date, known as an arraignment, you will enter your plea. Information on plea options can be found in the Traffic Court Reference Manual. If you enter a plea of not guilty, the judge will schedule a jury trial for your case. If you win your case, you will not have any points assigned to your record, and you will not owe any fines and fees other than to your attorney. However, if you lose your case, you will not only pay for your attorney, but you will also incur the original fines plus fees incurred from your court case. You will also have the points from the infraction added to your driving record.

As you can see, in many cases, opting to request that points be dismissed from your driving record may be the most beneficial resolution to your traffic infraction. And next time, make sure that you are following all the rules of the road to ensure that you stay safe and away from those flashing blue and red lights.