NMA E-Newsletter #179: More Hidden Ticket Costs

In recent newsletters, we’ve discussed what’s really at stake when you plead guilty or no contest to a traffic violation, as well as how to find information that will help you fight your case.

You should also consider the impact of a guilty verdict on your auto insurance premium. According to an Insurance.com study, the average rate increases for being found guilty of various common violations are as follows:

Reckless driving: 22 percent
DUI first offense: 19 percent
Driving without a license or permit: 18 percent
Careless driving: 16 percent
Speeding 30 mph over the limit: 15 percent
Failure to stop: 15 percent
Improper turn: 14 percent
Improper passing: 14 percent
Following too close/tailgating: 13 percent
Speeding 15 to 29 mph over limit: 12 percent
Speeding 1 to 14 mph over limit: 11 percent
Failure to yield: 9 percent
No car insurance: 6 percent
Seat belt infractions: 3 percent

Keep in mind that these are national averages only and don’t factor in your personal circumstances (e.g., where you live, how long you’ve been with your carrier, how old you are, marital status, your driving history, etc.), so Insurance.com has created a calculator that does. Using this tool, you can find out what the rate increase would be for a particular violation based on plugging in a little (anonymous) data about yourself.

(Note that the NMA cannot vouch for the accuracy of the results or the methodology used in the calculations. Note also that Insurance.com does not specify the length of time rates are affected, but it’s generally between three and five years.)

Let’s say I’ve been cited for reckless driving. In Madison, Wisconsin, a conviction will cost me six points on my license. According to the calculator, it will also trigger a 40 percent hike in my insurance premium, based on my specific circumstances. If I pay $1,000 a year in car insurance, my rate could go up to $1,400.

Now, what if I lived somewhere else like Tulsa, Oklahoma? A conviction for the same violation would cost me three points and increase my rate by 28 percent, under the same circumstances. Not quite as bad as in Wisconsin but still pretty steep and definitely worth fighting—considering that the rate hike could last from three to five years. (Points for most violations can stay on your driving record for up to three years, but points for serious offenses, like DUI, can stay on for 10 years or more.)

Note also the cumulative effect citations could have on my driving record. If my driving record is already compromised, that reckless driving charge could not only lead to a hefty rate increase but to a license suspension as well. If I continue driving on a suspended license and get caught, my pain only compounds, and my rates go through the roof (if I can find anyone who will insure me). All the more reason to fight that ticket.

Out-of-state traffic offenses/convictions are not immune because the information will likely find its way back to your home-state insurer and DMV—with similar negative effects. Contest these tickets as vigorously as you can.

While the Insurance.com calculator is only an estimating tool, it could prove valuable when answering this critical question: what’s really at stake when you get a traffic ticket? It’s usually more than you think.

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