Gianetta Palmer is a writer for CarInsurance101.com, copywriter, and essayist. Her work has appeared in EverydayHealth.com, Healthline, and The Dyrt Magazine. She is the author of Scrunchie-Fried and writes a lot about car insurance in her spare time.

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Melanie Musson is the fourth generation in her family to work in the insurance industry. She grew up with insurance talk as part of her everyday conversation and has studied to gain an in-depth knowledge of state-specific car insurance laws and dynamics as well as a broad understanding of how insurance fits into every person’s life, from budgets to coverage levels. She also specializes in automa...

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Reviewed by Melanie Musson
Published Insurance Expert

UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020

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People are always looking for ways to save money on car insurance. Unless you want to stop driving altogether, you will always need to carry an insurance policy, which makes saving money on premiums a top priority. Although there are many discounts that you might qualify for, the best way to ensure that your premiums stay low is to maintain a safe driving record.

Car insurance companies charge higher rates to people with a history of accidents. They also charge higher rates to people who are likely to be involved in an accident, whether or not they’ve ever been in one. One way that insurance companies determine how likely a person is to be involved in an accident is by assessing their previous driving history, including traffic citations.

Traffic citations give a good indication of whether a person engages in risky driving behaviors. Breaking traffic laws can result in car accidents, and some infractions can cause major accidents. By raising the rates of people who get tickets, insurance companies are able to mitigate the cost of potential claims. They can also dissuade drivers with a bad driving history from getting insurance with their company, thus reducing the company’s overall risk.

What Tickets Will Increase My Rates?

Not all tickets you get will increase your insurance premiums. Only moving violations count toward your driving record. This means that parking tickets do not apply and will not cause a rate increase, although they may make it difficult for you to renew your license plates if you do not pay them.

Moving violations are divided into major, minor and criminal infractions. The worse the citation, the more of an effect it might have on your premiums. For example, driving under the influence is more serious than failing to signal before a turn, and going 20 over the speed limit is worse than going 10 over. Some of the most common citations that cause rate increases among drivers:

— Distracted driving
— Driving under the influence of alcohol
— Failure to wear a seatbelt
— Driving over the speed limit
— Failure to yield right-of-way
— Reckless driving

There are many more citations that people sometimes receive. In some cases, a person may be cited for multiple things at a traffic stop. This is especially true if someone’s driving causes a collision. The accident may have been caused by a number of factors, and a person might receive tickets for all of them.

Once you’ve received a ticket, you must either pay it or contest it. If the ticket goes uncontested, it will go against your license and count against your insurance for up to seven years. Failure to pay your tickets will result in severe penalties, including a suspended license or even criminal charges, so it’s important to pay off any ticket that you cannot contest in court.

How Much Will My Rates Go Up?

Every insurance company decides its own thresholds for how many citations a person needs before rates are affected. In some cases, a single ticket may not have any effect on a policy at all; in other cases, it may cause rates to increase substantially. Expensive tickets may have a more dramatic effect on your policy than other citations as well. The variance depends on the severity of the ticket, whether the driver has any other risks and how the insurance company calculates its rates.

If you received any of your tickets as part of a traffic collision, your rates will be impacted more severely than if you were simply pulled over. In these cases, your rates will be increased both by the tickets and by the accident itself.

Because every company is different and so many variables are involved, it’s impossible to guess in advance exactly how much a person’s rates might increase as a result of a traffic citation. You can ask your agent for an estimate, but even the insurance company may not know in advance exactly what will happen to your rates until after the premiums have been calculated.

Once your rates do increase, it’s important to maintain safe driving habits until the premiums go down once more. If you have a history of risk factors such as car accidents in addition to your traffic citation, your rates will be impacted even more by any ticket you receive. Subsequent citations may have a more drastic effect on your premiums than a single ticket, and people with especially bad driving habits may have a hard time getting auto insurance at all.