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Does a rolling-stop violation cause your auto insurance rate to spike? Will your insurer drop you entirely over a reckless-driving ticket?
Traffic violations not only take a financial toll in the form of fines, but they can also increase your car insurance premiums—up to a whopping 82% in some cases, according to a study by insurance comparison website The Zebra. They could potentially even lead to your insurance company dropping your coverage altogether.
Here's what you need to know about what to expect if you've been cited for a traffic violation recently, and how you can mitigate the problem.
Which Traffic Violations Won't Cause Your Insurance Rates to Rise?
Every insurance company has its own set of criteria for determining how traffic violations impact rates, so some tickets may affect you with one insurer but not another.
In general, though, when an insurance company raises your rates, it's an indication the company believes you're more at risk of filing a claim. So violations that don't necessarily show that you're a risky driver may be less likely to cause a premium hike than others.
For example, if you've received a parking ticket, there's little reason for an insurer to use that occurrence to justify raising your rates. The same goes for tickets for having your windows too heavily tinted or not wearing a seatbelt, as well as fix-it tickets.
But again, there are no hard-and-fast rules here. It's at the discretion of the insurer to define risk and how violations influence rates.
Which Violations Are Likely to Cause Rate Increases?
While a few traffic violations—mostly non-moving violations—are unlikely to affect your rate, there are several that will. What's more, some will impact you more than others, with the highest increases coming with more severe violations.
The Zebra analyzed 61 million unique auto insurance rates to determine the average increase for 26 different traffic violations. Here's what the comparison website found:
|Insurance Rate Increases by Traffic Violation|
|Violation||Percentage Increase||Dollar Increase|
|Hit and run||82.2%||$1,209|
|Refusal of breathalyzer/chemical test||74.1%||$1,089|
|Driving with a suspended license||62.4%||$918|
|Driving with an open container||34.9%||$513|
|Operating a vehicle without permission||32.8%||$482|
|Passing a school bus||27%||$398|
|Following too closely||23.3%||$342|
|Failure to stop at a red light||22.7%||$333|
|Driving wrong way/wrong lane||22.5%||$331|
|Failure to yield||22.4%||$330|
|Speeding in a school zone||21%||$308|
|Driving too slowly||20.7%||$305|
|Distracted driving/cellphone violation||19.7%||$290|
|Driving with expired registration||10.9%||$161|
|Failure to show documents||8.7%||$128|
|Failure to use child safety restraint||4.3%||$63|
|Failure to wear a seat belt||4%||$59|
|Driving without lights||3.4%||$51|
Source: The Zebra
What Can You Do to Avoid the Extra Cost?
It's clear that not all traffic violations are equal when it comes to your insurance rates. The length of time violations remain on your driving record can also vary depending on where you live. Speeding tickets, for instance, will stay on your record for anywhere from one to six years, depending on the state.
In some cases, though, you may be able to prevent the ticket from being added to your driving record, which will prevent your insurer from finding out and raising your rate:
- Attend traffic school. In some states, you may have the option to attend a defensive driving course to prevent the court from adding certain violations to your record. You'll typically need to pay a fee on top of the court fees to attend, but it could be worth the investment to prevent higher insurance rates in the long run.
- Request a deferral. Some courts may offer the chance to defer the consequences of your violation in lieu of attending traffic school. In this scenario, you'll typically need to plead guilty and pay a fee on top of the fine for the violation. In exchange, the court will place you on probation for a predetermined period. If you complete the probation with no new citations, the violation won't be added to your record.
- Contest the ticket. If you believe the ticket is unfair or inaccurate, you can go to court and argue to have the case dismissed or reduced to a lesser violation. If you can manage to create doubt of the circumstances through witnesses and evidence, you could succeed. For more serious violations, consider hiring an attorney to help.
Unfortunately, there's no guarantee that any of these options will be available to you based on where you live and the type of traffic violation. But it won't hurt to reach out to the court and discuss some options it may have to keep your insurance premiums from spiking.
Also, keep in mind that more serious violations can cause your insurer to drop you entirely, which could make it difficult to get coverage from another insurance company without paying extremely high rates. The same goes if you have multiple accidents or violations and the insurer deems that you're too much of a risk to continue the relationship.
Other Ways to Lower Your Auto Insurance Costs
Whether or not you're facing the prospect of a rate hike due to a traffic violation, it's a good idea to consider ways to save on car insurance. Here are just a few options:
- Shop around. Each auto insurance company has its own criteria for determining rates, so even with a violation on your record, it's possible to save money by switching to a different insurer.
- Ask about discounts. You may be able to find discounts that help drive down the cost of coverage. Ask your insurance company if there are discounts available that you're not taking advantage of already. If you're shopping around for a policy, do the same with each insurer that gives you a quote.
- Improve your credit. In most states, auto insurance companies use a credit-based insurance score to help calculate your rates. Check your credit score to see where you stand, then review your credit report to identify areas that you can address. Improving credit can take time, but the effort can pay off for years to come.
- Reduce coverage. Downgrading your car insurance could be another way to save, especially if you're over-insured. Just be sure to weigh the benefits of saving now versus the costs you may face if you end up having to file a claim.
As you look into these and other ways to lower your auto insurance costs, you'll have a better chance of limiting the impact of a traffic violation now and in the future.