Will a warning affect my car insurance rates?

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Melanie Musson
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UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020

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If you have been pulled over for speeding or some other traffic violation, you may have received a citation to appear in court, or what is otherwise known as a “ticket.” On the other hand, the police officer may have given you a “warning,” which is quite different and has different consequences. Even if the warning is in written form, it usually does not have the same impact on your driving record or your car insurance as a true ticket.

A citation or a ticket is a legal summons to appear in court. When you are stopped for a traffic violation, a police officer has the technical right to arrest you for a misdemeanor and take you to jail. Of course, if police officers did this for every traffic stop, the jails would be full to capacity with people whose only crime was traveling ten miles an hour over the speed limit or failing to stop at a stop sign. While it is true that speeding and traffic violations can have serious consequences, the fact is that these violations are considered too minor in most cases to make a formal arrest and booking. Instead, officers are empowered to issue a written citation in lieu of arrest that orders the offender to appear in court. Failure to appear in court to answer the charges causes the penalty to increase in severity.

Eventually, you could be arrested for a speeding ticket, but probably only after you have ignored repeated warnings to pay the fine and appear before a judge.

Most people choose to waive their court appearances and simply pay the fine for the violation. Of course, you can appear in court and argue the validity of the ticket, but if you are found guilty you still have to pay the fine. A conviction will go on your driving record, whether you plead guilty or are adjudicated guilty. You will also be assessed any points assessed against your license for the violation that your state applies and your insurance company will be informed of the conviction.

On the other hand, a written or verbal warning does not require a court appearance

If you are required to appear in court, you have not been given a warning but some form of a citation which will appear on your record. If you have not been given a court date, you have received a warning, even if it is written. If you are in doubt as to whether the paper you received contained a citation or a warning, you can call or visit the local police department which issued the ticket and ask them for clarification.

In the majority of cases, warnings will not be logged into the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles database, so they will not be a part of your driving record and will not be used by your insurance company in assessing your premium rates. For verbal warnings, this is certainly true. However, any written warnings could, theoretically, be recorded by your local law enforcement agency and it is possible they could become part of your driving record. This is especially true if you have a repeat offense in a short period of time.

Are warning tickets recorded anywhere?

For the most part, warnings are given and recorded to aid local law enforcement in deciding whether to write you a ticket for future offenses. If law enforcement officials can access your warning record, they know if you have already been warned about speeding or other infractions. However, in 90 percent of cases, the manpower for tracking written warnings and reporting them to the states does not exist in smaller law enforcement agencies. Therefore, the danger of having a written warning reported to the state and your insurance company is minimal.

Even if your car insurance company does learn of your warning, the chances are that one warning will not raise your car insurance rates. This is because car insurance companies tend to base premium rate increases on the points you have accumulated for a given period of time, and points are not assigned to warnings. On the other hand, it is possible your car insurance company could see a warning for speeding as an indication that you are a risky driver, especially if you have other speeding violations in the recent past.

You can avoid the problems of speeding tickets and warnings by being aware of your speed at all times and observing posted speed limits. It is much easier to prevent a speeding ticket than to deal with the consequences of one to your driving record and insurance rates.

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