How a Momentary Mistake Can Cost You – Even Years after the Ticket Is Gone.
Face it – we’re all familiar with the elevated heartbeat that comes along with seeing those red and blue lights flashing in your rear-view mirror. But after the cop has given us that little piece of paper, and we’ve both gone on our separate ways, the inner panic subsides and we think to ourselves, “Well…this is quite an annoyance, but at least it’s just a one-time deal.” You pay the ticket, and you’re done with the situation. Right?
What many people forget is that a traffic ticket triggers a spike in your insurance rates. Your auto insurance premium is based upon a number of factors – your age, location, the make and model of your vehicle, the amount of coverage you want, and your driving record. Once you have a violation on your driving history, your insurance company sees you as a higher risk… and will want you to pay them more money.
Just How Much More?
Depending upon the severity of your violation, and the state within which you’ve received the citation, your insurance rate could soar as much as 22% higher than your current cost. Reckless driving is the most expensive violation, followed by a first offense DUI with a 19% increase, and driving without a license or permit at 18%. Speeding at 1-14mph over the limit, which is the most common infraction, will raise your rates by an average of 11%. If you already have a violation or points on your license, and you receive another…well, your insurance company likely won’t take well to the situation. These spikes can stay with you for up to 7 years, costing you hundreds and even thousands of dollars over time.
Measures You Can Take
If you’ve received a ticket, there are some actions you can attempt to prevent long-term pain from a short-term mistake.
- Fight the ticket – If you dispute the violation, your chances of getting your fine or points reduced is obviously much greater than if you just plead guilty. You can ask that details of the violation be made public to the court, such as the calibration of the radar gun used or the frequency with which the charging officer hands out the same ticket.
- Enroll in a driving course – Many courts will waive the infraction if you take a defensive driving course. You can typically find a course for less than the cost of the traffic ticket, and when you complete it, you’ll maintain your clean driving record, or at least reduce the initial amount of points. Your insurance company would then assess a much lower rise in your rates, or not even raise your rates at all!
- Look for a new policy – If you find yourself stuck with the charges, see if another insurance company is more forgiving. While you likely won’t pay what you were previous to the ticket, you may find a provider that doesn’t hike your premium quite as high. Keep in mind, though, that you also may not qualify for the same coverage at that price.