What Is A “Negative Unit” And Why Is It Keeping You From Getting Your NYS Driver License Back?

June 17, 2014

So you’ve paid all of your fines, taken your classes, and served the full period of license revocation after that pesky VTL conviction/incident (speeding, accident, DWI, whatever) and you’re finally ready to get your license back and resume your life on wheels!  Your application can’t be sent in fast enough! You can’t wait to get back behind the wheel!

“Whoooooaaaaa…not so fast there, Susie Speedracer” says the DMV.  Much to your chagrin, your application is denied and you’re told that you may not reapply for your license again until some arbitrary period of time has passed, says the all-powerful DMV; something about too many “negative units.”

What the hell is a negative unit?!…At last check you only had like 4 points on your license, right? That’s not a lot! So what’s the deal DMV?!

As we’ve all learned by now, “driving is a privilege not a right,” and that categorization as a privilege gives the DMV virtually unlimited discretion to take any and all appropriate action to keep the roads safe.  Unfortunately for you, based on your driving history and this last incident which has apparently put over the top, the DMV has determined that you’re a menace on the roads and the appropriate action is to keep you off of  them!  In truth, the denial of your application wasn’t just a malicious determination by some bureaucrat having a bad day.  It was actually based on the total number of negative units you’ve acquired over time.  15 NYCRR 136.4(a)(3) says that 25 or more negative units is just too many.  So if you have at least 25, your application will in all likelihood be denied if the DMV has a reason to review your history (and that reason would be the reapplication process after a revocation – generally not a suspension).

Most people are unaware of these negative units since they’re not as “popular” as the point system which assigns points to convictions for various VTL offenses, primarily because the DMV does a pretty poor job of letting people know these evil little things even exist.  As a matter of fact, I just ran a Google search for “NY DMV negative units” and absolutely nothing from the NYS DMV was returned.  Way to play “hide the ball” NYS DMV…

So in my continuing effort to educate and inform, I have included the relevant section from 15 NYCRR, specifically 136.6, which lays out which incidents result in negative units and how many.  As you’ll see, it’s not really that difficult to accumulate 25 units if you have a run of bad luck.  So keep these units in mind before you just roll over on a ticket or DWI or any other incident simply because it doesn’t have any, or a low, “points” value.  Those negative units will catch up to you in the end.

* Section 136.6.* Weighing of safety factors.

(a)    There shall be assigned to each safety factor a negative unit as follows:

                                   Safety factor Assigned negative units
1-3 years of application within one year of application
(1) for each reportable accident of record with a finding by the referee of gross negligence in the operation of a motor vehicle in the manner showing a reckless disregard for the life and property of others -5 -8
(2) for each reportable accident of record with conviction involvement or with a finding by the referee of a violation of the Vehicle and Traffic Law -3 -4
(3) for the first and second speeding conviction of record [FN*] -3 -4
(4) for the third and subsequent speeding conviction [FN*] -5 -8
(5) for reckless driving, speed contest or passing a stopped school bus -5 -8
(6) for each conviction of record for leaving the scene of a personal injury accident of record -8 -11
(7) for each alcohol-related offense of record as follows:
(i) conviction for violation of subdivision (1) of section 1192

of the Vehicle and Traffic Law:

first offense -5 -8
second offense -8 -11
third offense -11 -14
(ii) conviction for violation of subdivision (2),(2-a), (3), (4), or

(4-a) of section 1192 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law:

first offense -8 -11
second or subsequent offense -11 -14
(iii) chemical test refusal -6 -11
(8) for each conviction of homicide, criminally negligent

homicide, or assault arising out of the operation of a motor vehicle

-11 -14
(9) (i) for each incident of driving during a period of alcohol-related license suspension or revocation -10 -12
(ii) for each other incident of driving during a period of license suspension or revocation -8 -10
(10) for each conviction or finding by the commissioner’s referee of a violation of section 392 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law -3 -4
(11) for each other conviction of record for a moving violation -2 -3

FN* For each speeding violation of 25 miles per hour or more over the posted speed limit, add one point.

(b) The point reduction program shall not apply to any of the negative units listed in subdivision (a) of this section.

(c) For the purpose of this Part, the time periods for the computation of safety factors shall commence as of the date on which the incident occurred.

(d) In any case where two or more safety factors which are not independent of each other arise out of a single incident, only one of these safety factors shall be taken into consideration. The safety factor which shall be taken into consideration in these cases shall be the safety factor having the greater weight, except that where two safety factors are of equal weight, either one may be taken into consideration.

Example 1: Where an accident and a conviction for reckless driving arise out of the same incident, only the reckless driving conviction, which is the safety factor having the greater weight, is considered, because these safety factors are not independent of each other.

Example 2: Where a conviction of any subdivision of section 1192 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law and a finding of a chemical test refusal arise out of the same incident, only one of these two safety factors having equal weight is considered, because these safety factors are not independent of each other.

Example 3: Where a person is convicted of reckless driving and the incident occurred during a period of license revocation, both of these safety factors shall be taken into consideration because these safety factors are independent of each other.

Example 4: Where a person is convicted of speeding and failure to keep right, where both violations occurred at the same time, both of these safety factors shall be taken into consideration, because these safety factors are independent of each other.

(e) Where a person is convicted of or adjudicated for an offense committed outside of this State, and where such offense has been made part of the person’s New York State driving record, such offense shall carry the equivalent safety factor assigned under subdivision (a) of this section, as if the offense was committed in this State.