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Suddenly you hear the siren, as the officer turns on the flashing red and blue lights signaling you to pull over. Depending on the circumstances, you may or may not receive a traffic ticket at this point. However, once stopped at the side of the road, you begin to think of the time, aggravation, and added expense of a traffic citation and how it will impact your car insurance rates.
The Effects of Just One Ticket
Analysts at Autoflix, point out that your insurance provider will consider a number of variables when deciding whether to raise your annual premium rates after you’ve received a traffic ticket.
Each auto insurer will treat a traffic offense differently, depending on the kind and severity of the violation in question. Some companies will add a surcharge to your auto insurance premiums for a single year and then remove it if you’ve had no other violations or reportable accidents during that time.
Other companies will increase your rates for a full three years, until the violation drops from your DMV record, as it will in most states. If however, you’ve maintained a clean driving record for a number of years with the same insurance carrier, your insurance company may be willing to forgive and forget a single speeding ticket or other moving violation.
Whatever You Do, Don’t Speed!
Motorists don’t often think about all the consequences of a speeding ticket until they see the sudden hike in their insurance rates. Most drivers speed, according to studies provided by the Joe Taxpayer website.
Many reasons are given for speeding; some drivers are rushing to a business appointment or school. Others are rushing to get home after a long day at the office. Some drivers are simply not paying attention. Younger motorists, especially teenagers, are more commonly caught speeding than their older counterparts.
Thirty five million speeding tickets are written across the United States each year.
Each minute of the day, more than five dozen speeding violations are handed out on America’s streets and roads. Drivers aged 17 to 24 get the largest share of these citations. These young drivers are considered to be in the highest risk category and will pay the most for their car insurance.
The vast majorities of drivers who receive speeding tickets, more than 95%, plead guilty by mail and pay the fine. On average, the court fine, plus surcharges and fees averages out to around $150 per ticket
Insurance costs are another matter. Premiums, on average, will be raised about $300 per year after a speeding conviction! With so many millions of drivers receiving tickets, experts estimate that insurance companies’ profits increase by $9 billion each year!
The state of Ohio writes more speeding tickets than any other.
The next worst state for speeding violations is Pennsylvania followed by New York and California. Your lowest chances for getting a ticket would be in the states of Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Alaska according to Executive Travel Magazine.
Motorists cited for going only a few miles over the posted speed limit will be treated more leniently by their insurance providers than drivers who have exceeded posted speeds by 15, 20, 25, or more miles per hour. Excessive speed is known to be a major contributing factor in many thousands of auto accidents.
As a speeder, your insurance carrier will consider you a much higher risk for a serious accident and will adjust your annual car insurance rates accordingly.
If you are issued a ticket, as millions of motorists are each year, you will eventually realize that even one moving violation can effect what you pay for your car insurance premiums. How much your insurance may increase will depend on several factors including the relationship you have with your insurance provider and the area in which you live.
If you are classified as an extreme speeder, as 10% of drivers who regularly receive tickets are, your speeding offense is considered to be reckless driving, a major violation. Drivers in this category who have exceeded 90 mph or gone more than 15 mph over any posted speed limit can see their insurance rates double, even for a first offense!
A speeding ticket can even affect your other insurance rates, such as health, life, or disability insurances. Insurance companies reserved the right to look at your driving record when considering you for any insurance policy. Speeders in general are higher risks.
The Point System
Once convicted of a traffic offense, each state department of motor vehicles will assign a point value that will become a permanent part of your driving record. The more serious the infraction, the more points you will earn.
In most areas, a speeding violation at 10 – 15 mph above a posted limit is worth a single point.
However, if you are moving along at 20 or 30 mph above the speed limit, your offense will be dealt with far more seriously. A charge of reckless endangerment or reckless driving could be added to the speeding charge significantly increasing the fines, penalties, and points awarded if you are found guilty and convicted of the charges.
Points are awarded for most any moving violations such as failure to come to a complete stop at a stop sign or running a red light. Other moving violations include making improper turns or failure to yield the right of way to another motorist or pedestrian. Conviction of most of these offenses will usually result in a single point being charged against your record.
Higher numbers of points will be awarded to drivers found guilty of more serious events such as Driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol or driving while intoxicated (DWI). Traffic violations that result from the commission of a crime such as leaving the scene of an injury accident will be dealt with most severely by the court
Accumulate more than 11 or 12 points over an 18-month period and you could forfeit your driver’s license for a period of time.
For motorists convicted of several DUI or DWI offenses, a lifetime suspension or permanent revocation is possible.
How to Avoid Increased Car Insurance Premiums
The very first protocol to observe when you receive a traffic citation is to not admit guilt. It’s important to leave the matter open for discussion so that you may contest the ticket later on. At the very least, if you appear in court, you may be able to plead guilty to a lesser or reduced charge.
Signing a traffic summons and sending in a fine is an admission of guilt resulting in a conviction, so it is best to consult with your car insurance carrier or agent before deciding what to do with your ticket. Some states, like Rhode Island, will allow a single minor ticket to be erased from your record, leaving your insurance rates unaffected.
Enrolling in traffic school or taking a defensive driving class is often the best way to eliminate points and reduce your auto insurance premiums. State certified programs often offer up to a 10 or 15% reduction in rates for drivers who have completed these programs. In many cases, up to four points may be eliminated from your driving record in states such as New York.
You can even enroll and complete many safe driving classes online. It’s fast, simple and gives you the opportunity to do class work in the comfort of your own home or office and at a time when it’s convenient. Online classes have virtually eliminated the need to spend a precious Saturday in a stuffy classroom with a large group of sleepy motorists!
The National Motorists Association to the Rescue
The National Motorists Association (NMA), began 30 years ago in 1982 as a national non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the rights and freedoms of all motorists on American highways. Through donations from individuals and businesses, the NMA works to inform and protect drivers throughout the United States.
What You Can Do
What is the best advice for avoiding costly traffic tickets? Follow the rules of the road! Drive defensively and watch out for other drivers. Follow the posted speed limits and slow down if the weather is bad or visibility is limited.
Take a refresher course on driver safety from your local AAA or other community organization. Be aware of changes in the motor vehicle law that may apply to you. Always make sure your vehicle registration and inspections are up-to-date.
Periodically check your tires, wiper blades, and other equipment that may not function properly if damaged or worn. Finally, when you get behind the wheel of your car, don’t be distracted by your cell phone, your CD collection, or your lunch. Keep your eyes on the road and drive safely.
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