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How Much That Traffic Ticket Could Hike Your Insurance Rates — and What to Do About It

Nancy Dunham

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The blue lights flash, the siren sounds, and then you’re pulled over by the side of the road as the police officer writes you a ticket. How embarrassing. And potentially expensive!

First, there’s the cost of the actual ticket, of course — and that initial expense varies widely, depending on the state and the driving violation. But did you realize that getting a ticket will also increase the cost of your insurance? Over time, that can really add up.

From reckless driving to not wearing your seat belt, a recent study shows just how much that traffic ticket will raise your insurance rates. Check it out and then read on for what you can do about it.

Tickets and your insurance rates

A study by Insurance.com analyzed 490,000 insurance quotes to figure out how different violations affect your car insurance rates. Here are average increases for 15 common violations:

  • Reckless driving – 22 percent increase
  • DUI (first offense) — 19 percent
  • Driving without a license — 18 percent
  • Careless driving — 16 percent
  • Failure to stop — 15 percent
  • Driving 30 mph or more over the speed limit– 15 percent
  • Improper turn — 14 percent
  • Improper pass – 14 percent
  • Following too closely — 13 percent
  • Driving 15 to 29 mph over the speed limit — 12 percent
  • Driving 1 to 14 mph over the speed limit — 11 percent
  • Failure to yield — 9 percent
  • Driving without insurance — 6 percent
  • Seat belt infractions — 3 percent
  • Texting while driving — 14 percent

It could be even worse; those are just averages. Your actual rate will depend on a variety of factors, including your age, sex, where you live, your marital status and how long you’ve been with your carrier. Insurance.com has an online calculator allows you to input your age, location and years with your insurance company to get a more accurate picture of the likely cost of a particular infraction.

How to prevent a rate hike

Traffic violations show up on your state driving record, which is accessed periodically by your insurance company. There are a few things you can do to keep a ticket from appearing on your driving record or to minimize the impact on your insurance rate.

Go to court. If you go to court, you may end up getting the ticket reduced to a lesser offense or having the case dismissed entirely. There are several reasons why a judge might dismiss your case. Among them:

  • The officer who issued the ticket didn’t appear in court.
  • The ticket contains inaccurate information.
  • You can prove you did not commit the offense.

Hire a lawyer. A lawyer could help your case. You’ll have to pay, but probably not much. A lawyer we interviewed charges $80 to handle a basic traffic case.

Attend traffic school. Some states allow you to keep a violation off your record by attending traffic school. You can attend traffic school in person (many have night and weekend classes) or online and you’ll have to pass a test, but it shouldn’t be difficult if you pay attention. The fee to attend the school is usually small.

If you end up paying the fine, here are some steps to take going forward:

  • Avoid getting pulled over again: This seems obvious, but remember that more violations will further increase your insurance rates. Keep your car maintained — no broken or malfunctioning lights — wear your seat belt, drive safely and defensively, and renew your registration on time.
  • Be patient: Some insurance companies will reduce your rate after a year with no violations. Many moving violations will no longer affect your rate after three years.
  • Comparison shop for new insurance: Insurance companies treat violations differently, so another company may offer you a better rate. But don’t lie about past infractions. The company will be reviewing your driving record, even if you’ve moved to another state.

A bump in your insurance rates is always upsetting, but you can lessen the impact by following the suggested steps and not repeating the offense.

How do you keep the cost of driving manageable? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

This article was originally published on MoneyTalksNews.com as 'How Much That Traffic Ticket Could Hike Your Insurance Rates — and What to Do About It'.

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