It’s a simple and reasonably fair concept – all else being equal, safer and more careful drivers pay less for their car insurance than do those having multiple accidents and/or moving violations. How much? Depending on the infraction one’s rates can jump by as much as a whopping 93 percent for a single ticket, according to a recent national analysis conducted in San Francisco.
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is cited as being the top ticket among the most common moving violations at the aforementioned 93 percent penalty (and that’s on top of the cost of the ticket itself and any legal fees that might also be involved). Coming in a close second is reckless driving – a sort-of catch-all category used for serious infractions involving a wanton disregard for the rules of the road – which would be responsible for a still staggering 82 percent increase.
Lesser charges, from getting caught driving solo in a carpool lane to careless driving – piloting a car or truck without due caution in a manner that might cause damage or injury, from failure to yield right-of-way to talking on a cell phone while driving – will raise a drivers rates by an average of 18 to 27 percent. The most benign ticket would be a seatbelt use violation at a mere five percent upsurge in premiums. And these increases assume a hypothetical low-risk driver who otherwise boasts a clean record (see below). Those with a history of multiple violations and/or accidents might see their rates skyrocket beyond affordability or have their policies cancelled depending on the motoring misdeed.
Here’s the list of “unlucky seven” top premium-busting traffic tickets:
1. DUI: 93 percent increase.
2. Reckless driving: 82 percent increase.
3. Careless driving — 27 percent increase.
4. Speeding 1 to 15 mph over the limit: 21 percent increase.
- 16 to 30 mph over the limit: 28 percent increase.
- 31+ mph over the limit: 30 percent increase.
5. Failure to stop: 19 percent increase.
6. Failure to yield to pedestrians: 19 percent increase.
7. Driving in a carpool lane: 18 percent increase.
Fortunately motorists with at least moderately good driving records can often avoid negative effects of lesser charges. Some carriers will “forgive” a minor offense for a policyholder in good standing with an otherwise pristine history, while many states offer special courses to keep many moving violations from landing on a driver’s record. “Drivers who commit moving violations can take safety classes to improve their skills and remove blemishes from their records. Many of these courses are offered online and can be completed in just a few hours. Otherwise, these infractions can lead to higher car insurance costs for up to three years.”
Since some insurance companies are more tolerant of motorists having imperfect driving records than others, those facing a steep rate increase following a traffic violation or accident would be advised to shop around among multiple carriers to find one who’s willing to offer a lower premium. Those who may not be able to find a better deal elsewhere should be sure they’re taking advantage of all available discounts to help offset all or part of a rate increase. Most insurers will, for example, offer a discount for bundling house or apartment and auto insurance, and many will grant a rate reduction to policyholders who drive only a minimal number of miles each year and/or have special monitoring systems installed on their cars.
Also, consider raising deductibles for the comprehensive and collision portions of your policy, which cover physical damage to your car where another driver is not at fault. According to industry sources, boosting the deductible from $250 to $500 can shave around 30 percent off those sections of your car’s coverage. If you’re driving an older car that’s worth only a few thousand dollars if totaled, you might want to roll the proverbial dice and eliminate this coverage altogether.
And if that doesn’t do the trick, consider buying a make and model that’s inherently cheaper to insure. Crossovers/SUVs and minivans tend to deliver the lowest average premiums, while luxury models and rip-roaring sports cars command the highest rates. All else being equal, costlier autos cost more to insure than cheaper models, simply because there’s more money at stake for repairs or replacement.
Another – perhaps more drastic – solution would be to move to a state where drivers are inherently charged lower insurance rates, which can be affected by the level of competition among carriers and the percentage of uninsured and underinsured motorists on the roads (see our post on this topic). City dwellers could see big reductions in their premiums if they relocate to the sleepy suburbs.
Or better yet, stay sober, slow down, pay attention, and turn off the phone whenever you’re behind the wheel to avoid being written a ticket in the first place.
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