What Kind of Tickets Affect Insurance?

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Melanie Musson
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UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020

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Auto insurance companies calculate premiums based on the likelihood of a driver needing to file a claim. People who file claims frequently cause insurance companies to lose money. Insurers would rather cover people who do not get into accidents as this allows them to collect premiums and make a profit. In order to encourage safe drivers to purchase their policies, insurance companies offer discounts to people with immaculate driving records. Similarly, insurers charge higher rates to people who have been in auto accidents as a way to compensate for the cost of claims.

Accidents are not the only element of a person’s driving history, however, and insurance companies assess a driver’s entire driving record when calculating premiums. This means that even if you have never been in an accident, traffic violations and speeding tickets can cause your rates to increase.

Why Traffic Citations Cause Rate Increases

Traffic laws are designed to keep the roads safe and prevent accidents. Roads are designed with certain features in mind, such as speed limits, passing lanes and the location of traffic signals. When used properly, these roads should be safe.

People who fail to comply with traffic laws are at a higher risk of causing a collision or making one worse. For example, running a red light or failing to yield right-of-way could cause an accident, and driving faster than the speed limit could cause the accident to become more severe.

Even if you have never been in an accident, it’s likely that you will have one at some point if you routinely fail to obey traffic laws. Insurance companies will automatically view you as a high-risk driver if you engage in reckless driving behaviors, even if you have never been in a collision.

What Tickets Raise Insurance Rates?

Not all tickets you receive will cause your rates to increase, and some citations will cause a greater increase than others. For example, parking tickets will not increase your premiums. You may have a hard time renewing your registration if you have unpaid parking tickets, but your driving record and insurance premiums will not be affected.

Among moving violations, citations are divided into three categories: minor, major and criminal. As you might guess, the more severe the violation, the more your driving history and insurance premiums will be affected. Obviously, if a violation causes an accident, your rates will be affected by both the ticket and the subsequent collision. Some of the most common citations that cause rate increases are:

— Failure to wear a seatbelt
— Driving faster than the speed limit
— Driving while intoxicated
— Distracted driving, such as cellphone use
— Driving without insurance

In each case, these actions increase your likelihood of either being in an accident or sustaining severe injuries or damage as a result of an accident.

How Much Will My Rates Increase?

A single citation may not have a noticeable effect on your premiums, especially if it’s a minor infraction. For example, a single speeding ticket may not affect your policy at all. On the other hand, a single criminal infraction like a DUI could have a major impact on your premiums.

Once you receive a ticket, it will count as one or more points against your driving record. After a certain number of points accumulate, your premiums will increase; with enough points, your insurer may decide not to renew your policy at all. Points can take up to seven years to drop off of your driving record, so you may be stuck with the higher rates for quite a while.

Your rates may increase dramatically if you have a safe driving award that you lose due to the citation. Some insurance companies only retract these discounts if drivers are involved in accidents, but others may take away the discount for severe traffic violations as well.

Bear in mind that the rate increases can only occur after the policy is renewed, so you may not see the increase until several months after the violation. If your rates suddenly jump after your policy renews, you can contact your agent to see what the reasoning behind the increase was and whether there is anything you can do about it.

The best way to maintain low insurance premiums is to focus on safe driving and avoid citations and accidents whenever possible. If you do get a ticket, however, you can still work with your insurance company to find a way to keep your policy affordable until the points where off and your premiums drop down to normal.

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