North Carolinians frequently find themselves at the wrong side of the Department of Motor Vehicles system. What can seem like simple and innocuous tickets—like speeding or running a stop sign—can add up and lead to license suspension and other consequences.

Understanding the North Carolina point system

Like many other states, North Carolina uses a license point system where any traffic violation adds “points” to your driving record. If you have too many points over a certain time period, the DMV will suspend your license automatically. Twelve points over three years leads directly to suspension, and the threshold is lower if you have a prior suspension on record. This is meant to help regulate driving safety over time but can also be highly punitive and lead to long-lasting economic consequences for those with suspended licenses.

Over time, points drop off your record, but that will not be enough to stop you accumulating points quickly. A simple speeding ticket can add three points to your record. In as few as three stops, you could find yourself without a license.

What losing your license really means

A suspended license can have a wide impact on your life. For most people, driver’s licenses are a primary identification, meaning you may have to carry far more sensitive documents like birth certificates and social security cards just as a way to identify yourself. Many people cannot get to work, run errands or care for their children’s needs without a car. Suspensions have a major impact on quality of life, and driving with a suspended license can devastate your future. There are no good options once your license is gone.

There are limited options to clear your record, and the best course of action is to not accumulate points at all. It is worth it to contest your tickets.