This is the first post in EverQuote’s Traffic Ticket Series. Learn more about other traffic tickets and how they affect auto insurance here.
All drivers make mistakes on the road, at least once in awhile. Yet, sometimes, those slip-ups have greater consequences, especially if they result in an accident or if a police officer is nearby.
Receiving a traffic citation can be stressful, nevermind trying to determine its effect on your auto insurance. Here’s a general list of the types of traffic tickets and a look at the consequences for your premium. Drive safe to avoid tickets like these today.
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Types of Tickets:
While each state may have specific terminology for tickets, these are some of the main types of traffic citations.
- Speeding: Driving over the posted speed limit at any time can result in a speeding ticket. Nowadays, a police officer doesn’t necessarily have to be nearby for a driver to receive a ticket. Radar technology can catch a driver’s speed from as far as 4,000 feet away, and some states even have photo-enforced, electronic readers that measure how fast you are traveling. Driving even 1 mph over the posted the speed limit is breaking the law and is technically unsafe. Always note speed limit signs and follow them as you see fit for the road and weather conditions to avoid this type of citation.
- DWI/DUIs: A DUI or DWI is a serious offense. Driving with a blood alcohol content over .08% alcohol may lead to a license suspension or revocation and further consequences that are not easy to undo.
- Reckless Driving: Reckless driving occurs when an operator drives a vehicle in a dangerous manner. This could be as simple as passing a car when there is a double yellow line, excessive speeding or failure to comply with a police officer’s order to pull over.
- Leaving the Scene of an Accident / Hit-and-Run: If an accident occurs, it’s important to stay at the scene of the accident until the police arrive, regardless of whether there was another vehicle involved. Leaving the scene of an accident can have serious consequences. This offense is also known as a hit-and-run and occurs when a driver hits another car, person or object (in some states, animals) and leaves without helping anyone or identifying him or herself.
- Driving Without a Valid Driver’s License: Maybe your license recently expired or you forgot your wallet at home. Regardless, driving without a valid driver’s license can lead to a ticket.
- Illegal Turns: Failure to comply with a “No U-Turn” or a “No Left Turn” sign may result in a ticket for illegal turns.
- Running a Red Light or Stop Sign: Driving through a red light or a stop sign is illegal and may result in a traffic citation.
- Distracted Driving: More states are passing laws about distracted driving with varying degrees of consequences. In general, distracted driving is anything that prevents a driver from focusing on the roadway. Texting, emailing, or calling on your cell phone without a hands-free device are all examples of driving in a distracted manner in some states.
- Parking Tickets: Illegal parking such as blocking a fire hydrant may lead to a parking ticket, and your vehicle may also be towed.
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- Window Tints: Each state may have their own laws regarding window tints, but be aware that if your vehicle’s windows are over your state’s legal percentage, then you may receive a ticket.
- Fines: The fines for tickets can range in cost. A parking ticket may cost you $50 but reckless driving could leave you with a fine up to $5,000.
- Court appearance: Some tickets, like a DUI, may require a court appearance. A driver may also choose to challenge a ticket in court if they believe it was issued without adequate reason.
- Action may be taken against driver’s license: If you received a DUI or DWI, then your driving privileges may be at risk. Some states suspend or revoke your license after a serious infraction.
- Points: Some states operate on a points-based system. Certain citations will result in a number of points (typically 1-3) and if a driver receives a certain number of points over a period of time, further action may be taken. For example, in the state of New York, speeding may result in 3 points, and if a driver receives over 11 points in an 18-month period, his or her license may be suspended.
- Listed on your driving record: Tickets may be listed on your driving record and in some cases, drivers may seek mitigation. Whether or not you received the citation in- or out-of-state may determine whether it will be included in your driving history.
Traffic Ticket Fun Facts:
Not all states have the same traffic violations. Here are some statistics about state-to-state differences. Look up information about your state here.
Texas drivers are nearly 50% more likely to receive a ticket for a speed contest than regular speeding.
New York drivers receive about 30% more illegal U-turn tickets than the national average.
Massachusetts drivers are charged with failing to stop more often than drunk driving.
The top traffic tickets in California are minor accidents and speed contests. California drivers also receive 120% more tickets for speeding over 100 mph than the rest of the nation.
Illinois drivers receive about half as many seat belt violations as the rest of the country. There are also more child seat violations issued there than drunk driving with injury.
Car Insurance and Citations:
Depending on the severity of the offense, your car insurance rate may increase with a ticket. Remember, your auto insurance premium is largely determined by your perceived risk level as a driver. Insurers look carefully at your driving history to determine this, though other factors such as location, vehicle, age and gender also have an effect.
Having multiple citations or points on your record signifies that you may be riskier, and costlier, to insure. That said, it all comes down to your individual situation. Every carrier is different, and if all of your violations are not listed on your record—because you fought them in court or received one out-of-state that did not transfer back home—then you may not see as large a premium increase.
Additionally, there are certain tickets that will definitely result in pricier coverage. A DUI or DWI infraction is never taken lightly and will raise your insurance by a significant amount for at least a few years. This may range from an additional couple hundred dollars to more than a $1,000 each year.
Your rate may also increase if you’ve been issued several speeding tickets or a reckless driving citation, as those typically signify a high-risk driver. If you recently renewed your policy, it is possible that your insurer may not discover your tickets for some time. They may instead affect your renewal rates later.
If this traffic ticket is the first you’ve received, don’t panic. Insurers typically look at your entire driving history so if they see a clean record with one rare parking or speeding ticket—it’s unlikely to grossly change your premium. You may see a slight increase, but it is nothing compared to the effects of a DUI or a frequent offense.
The tickets that are less likely to affect your insurance rate negatively are: first speeding ticket, expired license or registration, seat belt violation, window tints, parking infraction.
The tickets that are more likely to affect your insurance rate are: DUI or DWI (especially with an SR-22 filing), reckless driving, multiple speeding tickets, distracted driving (as laws become stricter).
If you believe you have a case, you can also fight traffic citations in court. In some states, you can also take a defensive driving course to remove points from your driving record, though be aware that your infraction may still be listed in your driving history. The best way to keep citations off your record is to avoid them all together by driving safe and following the law. You can see how safe of a driver you are here.