ASSURANCE

How to a Traffic Ticket Can Affect Car Insurance Rates

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Besides the hassle and immediate expense of paying a traffic ticket — such as for speeding, reckless driving, or not obeying a stop sign, among others — there’s the longer-term cost of higher car insurance rates when you break a traffic law.

It’s an expense you may not immediately think of after a police officer pulls you over and gives you a ticket, but if the violation goes on your driving record, then it’s likely your insurance company will find out about it at renewal time for your policy.

The way insurers view it, the more driving violations you have, the more likely you are to have an accident. That will likely mean the insurer will have to pay out more money for a claim, and it will usually increase the driver’s premium to help pay for it.

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First, it’s worth noting that not all traffic violations are considered the same when weighed by insurance companies.

There are “major” and “minor” violations. Major violations include reckless driving, hit and run, DUI, driving with a suspended license, and manslaughter. Minor violations include failure to obey a signal or sign, not using your lights, and improper passing.

Speeding is a category by itself, with the severity determined by your speed. Going from 20 to 85 mph or more over the speed limit is a major offense. Some states, however, treat all speeding as a minor offense if no one was injured or killed. Also, some insurance companies don’t differentiate between which speeds a violation occurs at.

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Insurance rate hike examples

A comparison by ValuePenguin of three states found that speeding and failure to observe a signal increased car insurance rates by 1.33x or an increase of 33 cents for every dollar.

Reckless driving — a major driving violation — costs the average customer 2.19x or an extra $1.19 for every $1 spent. If your annual premium was $1,000, it would more than double to $2,190 for a reckless driving charge, while a speeding ticket or failure to observe a light would increase it to $1,333.

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Because age, sex, credit score, past violations, type of car, and other factors also determine car insurance rates, the comparison used a standard profile of a single male, 30, who drives a 2014 Toyota Corolla.

 

How long ago you had driving violations can affect your rates. Two identical drivers can have different rate increases, depending on when they last got a ticket. If one had a violation 11 months ago and the other’s was 35 months ago, the driver with the most recent violation could pay 9 percent more on their collision insurance.

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Who your insurer is also matters. The study found that of Farmers, Allstate and Nationwide, Farmers was the most lenient on rate increases among the violations it studied. It raised rates 8 percent less on average than the overall average, and Farmers’ average rate hike for reckless driving was 38 percent less than the overall average for that violation.

Policeman stops woman driver to give her a traffic ticket for speeding. He takes her driver’s license.

Allstate raised rates the most after a speeding ticket, by about 1.38x, while Nationwide was the worst for reckless driving offenses with a rate increase of 3.1x.

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Some insurers may not cover you

If you get into too many accidents or get tickets for serious traffic violations, or even rack up a bunch of minor violations in a short amount of time, some insurance companies may not offer you any coverage at all.

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One way to get insurance is through a state-run risk plan, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Check with your state’s department of insurance to see if a risk plan is available in your state. You’ll likely pay a much higher premium than you would otherwise, but at least you’ll have car insurance.

Another option is to get a “non-standard” auto policy from a private insurance company that will sell you more comprehensive coverage than you can get from risk pools.

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What to do if you get a ticket

Not getting a ticket is the best way to avoid insurance premium hikes. But if you do get a ticket, check if you can go to traffic school or take a defensive driving course to have the violation removed from your record. The course will cost you some money, but it will be well worth it if the violation doesn’t go on your record and your insurance rates don’t rise.

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You can also contest a ticket in court, either before a judge or at a jury trial, if you think you didn’t commit the violation.

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