That speeding ticket is making you nervous. You know it is going to send your auto insurance rates skyrocketing. Then there is that citation you received for blowing through a stop sign. That will surely result in a bigger auto insurance bill.
The truth is, not all tickets, and not all moving violations, are equal in the eyes of your insurer. Some of them will result in minor increases to your rates. Others won’t cause your rates to budge. And others? They’ll send your policy premiums skyrocketing.
What tickets will cause the biggest premium jumps? Generally, the more serious the ticket, the bigger the likelihood that your rates will increase. And if you are hit with a ticket for a criminal offense – such as driving under the influence or leaving the scene of an accident – you can expect a particularly big jump.
You’ll pay for criminal violations
Matthew Weiss, attorney and co-founder of New York City-based law firm Weiss & Associates, says that it's difficult to say exactly what impact different tickets will have on your auto insurance premiums. That's because every state and insurer are different in how they treat violations and insurance rates.
But in general, Weiss said, any ticket that involves a traffic violation with a criminal overtone will cause the greatest jump in your auto insurance premiums.
Particularly expensive tickets? Weiss points to citations for driving with a suspended license, leaving the scene of a traffic accident, reckless driving and, of course, driving under the influence.
"Those violations are criminal in nature," Weiss said. "They are more serious than a garden-variety stop-sign ticket, for instance."
The big hits to your insurance
Alex Lauderdale, transportation analyst at EducatedDriver.org, a Web site devoted to news about safe driving, said that a ticket for reckless driving will most likely increase your insurance rates the most. Lauderdale said that some reports show that a reckless driving ticket can cause your insurance rates to rise 22 percent.
But what is considered reckless driving?
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Lauderdale said that law enforcement officials have some leeway in what is reckless driving. But usually, it’s driving that puts others at risk.
"It's often defined as a mental state where a blatant disregard for the rules of the road are shown," Lauderdale said. "This often results in accidents and various forms of damages. In other words, it's driving dangerously."
You might get one of these tickets if you are speeding at a rate that law enforcement officials consider dangerous. Going 90 miles an hour on a residential street, for instance, might net you a citation for reckless driving.
Violations such as racing other vehicles, fleeing police officers or passing a stopped school bus can be considered reckless driving, too. Some states rank certain instances of texting while driving as reckless driving.
Another ticket that will almost certainly cause a big jump in your insurance rates? Lauderdale points to driving under the influence. He said that a first offense of driving while intoxicated could cause your rates to jump about 20 percent.
"With DUI laws being taken so seriously, your insurance company will deal with this sort of infraction seriously as well," Lauderdale said.
Infractions such as careless driving, failure to stop and driving more than 30 miles-an-hour over the speed limit can cause a hike of about 15 percent in your insurance rates, Lauderdale said.
Severity of violation matters
Other times, tickets that normally wouldn't have as great an impact on your insurance rates, such as a speeding violation, will cause your rates to shoot up depending on the severity of your infraction. For instance, in New York state, a single speeding ticket for driving no more than 16 miles over the posted limit probably won't cause your insurance rates to rise, Weiss said.
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But a ticket for driving more than 16 miles over the limit? That's considered a more serious violation, and could send your insurance rates higher, Weiss said.
The number of tickets you accumulate plays a big role, too, Weiss said. Say you get one minor speeding ticket. That shouldn't hurt your insurance premiums. But in New York, if you get a second ticket, even for a minor moving violation, within 36 months, your rates will go up, Weiss said.
Even here, though, there is some leeway. Weiss said that your insurance carrier can't penalize you with a higher rate until you are found guilty of your moving violation. This could work in your favor. Say you need to spread out your tickets more than 36 months apart to avoid an increase to your premiums. If that official conviction comes more than 36 months after your first conviction -- even if you received your ticket earlier than that -- you might avoid a premium hike.
"Check your local state laws," Weiss said. "Generally, a minor ticket won't result in your rates going up. A bigger ticket will."
You can protect yourself against insurance hikes in many states by taking driver-safety classes. In some states, these classes will remove a violation from your driving record. In other states that use a points system -- giving motorists points on their licenses for every ticket they receive -- safety classes can help you remove these negative marks from your driving record.
"Say a class results in a deduction of four points. That can be very helpful for people who have multiple tickets on their record," Weiss said.