Texas Traffic Tickets and Violations
Whether you are an adult or teen driver, getting a ticket in Texas is no fun. In fact, it can be a bit frustrating, confusing, or even intimidating.
You’ve probably asked yourself:
- How much will my traffic ticket cost me?
- How will my traffic ticket affect my driving record?
- What’s the best way to handle a traffic ticket?
- What can I do to keep my ticket from raising my insurance rate?
Since knowledge is power, let’s tackle each of these questions below, starting with…
How much will my traffic ticket cost me?
If you haven’t been driving long or haven’t gotten a ticket in a while, you might not realize that the old Texas system used to assess points and surcharges for various traffic offenses was repealed effective September 1, 2019.
This is not to say that traffic violators can now escape penalty, but rather that this specific system of traffic law enforcement is no longer in use. Texas drivers can still be hit with fines and fees for traffic violations and/or have their license suspended or revoked for more serious infractions like driving under the influence or driving without insurance.
In place of the state’s points and surcharge system, each city in Texas has established traffic fine schedules for various types of traffic violations. Refer to your city’s website for the specific fees.
Statewide, for example, the average charge for driving 10 mph over the speed limit in a posted zone is $236. Exceeding the speed limit by that much in a school zone will set you back about $265. And in a construction zone, you’re looking at somewhere in the range of $333.
Types of Texas Traffic Citations
Texas traffic citations fall into two categories:
- Minor citations: These citations include parking and other non-moving violations and moving violations like speeding, failure to signal or yield, following too closely, and driving without a seat belt. The fines associated with these infractions will usually range from $20 up to $300 or more.
- Major citations: Certain traffic violations are considered major offenses, with some deemed criminal acts — Class C misdemeanors — generally punishable with fines, not incarceration. Traffic citations that rise to the level of a felony, bringing major fines and possible prison terms, are often moving offenses resulting in injury or death and involving behaviors like hit and run or driving while intoxicated. The fines associated with these citations can be upwards in the thousands of dollars.
Here are the top traffic violations police reported for Texas drivers.
Additional Traffic Ticket Costs
There are other expenses associated with getting a traffic ticket.
For example, if your violation results in a suspension or revocation of your license, a reinstatement fee between $100 and $125 will be incurred. A suspension requiring the filing of a Financial Responsibility Insurance Certificate (SR-22) will increase your annual insurance premium on average by 70% – 90%. And, of course, any time you take off work to make a court appearance should be factored in as well.
It adds up fast.
How will my traffic ticket affect my driving record?
Any citation received in Texas goes on your driving record. This is true for both moving and non-moving violations. And if the violation constitutes a misdemeanor, or felony charge or conviction, it will appear on your criminal record as well.
Violations on your driving record will impact your auto insurance rates for three years or more. They may also hurt your chances of employment for any job that requires driving.
What’s the best way to handle a traffic ticket?
If you get a traffic ticket in Texas, you have three choices:
- Plead guilty
- Plead no contest
- Plead not guilty
It’s good to weigh your options and understand the ramifications of each choice before you submit your plea.
Pleading Guilty or No Contest
If you plead guilty or no contest, you’ll be required to pay your ticket and fines. You might have an opportunity to negotiate lower fines or penalties and/or points off your driving record by taking a Texas defensive driving class. These factors will all depend on your violation, and it will be up to the court to decide.
Unlike pleading guilty, a plea of no contest cannot be held against you in a civil suit, if that risk is of concern to you.
Pleading Not Guilty
Pleading not guilty is much more difficult. Fighting traffic tickets in Texas requires drivers to present their case in court in front of a judge. If you win your case, you may walk away with no or violations on your record. The court has the knowledge and the advantage in this situation though, so unless you are well-versed in Texas traffic law, you should consider hiring an attorney to present your case.
Even if you do fight your ticket, you might still face fines — and lawyer’s fees.
What Can I Do to Keep my Ticket from Raising My Insurance Rates?
Most insurance companies will pull your driving record for the past three years when calculating what your premium will be. The rate increase resulting from a single violation can be somewhere between 10% to 30% — unless you do something about it, that is.
Fortunately, for many drivers there is a relatively easy way to reduce the impact of a ticket on your insurance rates, if you qualify and don’t delay taking action.
Defensive Driving Courses to the Rescue
Many drivers are able to get their ticket dismissed by completing a six-hour Texas-approved defensive driving course. There are, however, eligibility requirements to meet and time constraints involved.
While it can vary from one Texas jurisdiction to the next, the sorts of violations that will render you ineligible from taking a defensive driving course (to get a ticket dismissed) will be infractions such as:
- Driving 25 MPH or more over the speed limit
- Moving violations in a construction zone
- Passing a school bus
- Leaving the scene of an accident
How to contact the Court
To find out if you are eligible for ticket dismissal by taking a defensive driving course, you will need to contact the court handling your ticket. You can find their contact information on the backside of your ticket. They will be able to tell you if you qualify and what process they want you to follow. The critical thing here is to get court approval to take the defensive driving course BEFORE your court date appearance.
Generally, the process will entail little more than taking the defensive driving course within 90 days of approval and providing the court with your certificate of completion plus a copy of your driving record (Type 3A), which you can get here.
Check Your Texas Driving Record
After you’ve taken your approved defensive driving course and submitted your completion certificate and driving record to the court, you’re almost done. Wait a couple of weeks, then request a new copy of your driving record. Make sure the ticket was removed from your record. If it hasn’t been removed, contact the court immediately.
Keeping the Insurance Company Out of It
If you act quickly enough to get your ticket dismissed with a defensive driving course, your insurance company might never know it happened. And what they don’t know about, they can’t charge for. Most insurance companies pull driving records twice a year, so with a bit of good timing your ticket will come and go, and no one will be the wiser.
We want to be clear that we would not suggest anything that skirts the rules or goes against the law. This is just how the system works, and all the players know that — including the insurance companies.
How much can you potentially save by taking a defensive driving course to dismiss a traffic ticket?
While you may not see a lump sum of savings, defensive driving can keep your insurance rate from increasing between 10% and 30%. When you add that monthly savings up over the course of a year, that’s a lot of savings in exchange for six hours of your time!
Other Traffic Safety Courses That Can Save You Money
In addition to the defensive driving course we’ve recommended for ticket dismissal, there are other traffic safety courses in Texas that can potentially save you money on top of making you a better and safer driver.
- Traffic Ticket Dismissal (sometimes mandatory for teen drivers with tickets)
- Insurance Discount (potential 10% savings for those with a clean driving record)
- Seat Belt Safety (often mandatory for those with a seat belt-related infraction)
- Adult Driver’s Education (for new drivers between the ages of 18-24)
Find out more about what these courses have to offer and the potential savings they bring.