Most people know that serious violations such as drunk driving can cause insurance premiums to rise. But relatively minor moving violations—such as driving a few miles per hour over the speed limit, failing to use a turn signal or driving alone in a car pool lane—increase auto insurance costs by 18% to 21%, on average, for three to five years.
The typical driver pays around $800 a year for auto insurance, so a 20% increase for three years equals nearly $500 in additional costs—much more than the $100 to $250 the ticket itself tends to cost. (Some insurers advertise that they do not penalize policyholders for getting one minor traffic ticket—but policies that include this feature often cost more than those that don’t, offsetting any savings.)
Major moving violations can increase insurance rates even further—an average of 93% for driving under the influence (DUI)…82% for reckless driving…30% for driving 31+ miles per hour (mph) above the speed limit…or 28% for driving 16 to 30 mph over the limit, for example.
To avoid insurance increases…
Take a driving class. In many states, you can wipe tickets (or “points”) off your driving record by completing a defensive-driving class. Call your state’s DMV or visit its Web site to find out if this is an option and for a list of qualifying classes.
Hire an attorney. An attorney might charge perhaps $200 to $400 to contest a traffic ticket—but that could be money well spent if the ticket would significantly increase your insurance rates. You can find an attorney who specializes in contesting traffic tickets for a flat fee through your state’s bar association (AmericanBar.org) or your local Yellow Pages.
Alternative: Consider contesting the ticket on your own if it isn’t worth paying an attorney. Your ticket is likely to be dismissed if the officer who gave it to you fails to appear in court, which is not uncommon. Contesting the ticket might trigger additional administrative court fees or surcharges, however.
Shop around. The insurer that offered you the best rate when you had a clean driving record might no longer offer the best deal now that you have a ticket.