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The Five Costliest Traffic Tickets for Auto Insurance

Those whirling blue lights in the rearview mirror usually mean just one thing: It’s traffic ticket time. The worse the violation, the more your car insurance costs may rise because it’s more likely you’ll be considered a bigger risk to the insurer. Rack up a combination of the nastiest violations plus a few accidents, and insurers may even refuse to cover you, says Loretta Worters, spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute, a trade group.

It boils down to matching the premium you pay to your risk as a customer, says State Farm spokesman Dick Luedke.
“Sometimes you get lucky and violate (traffic laws) a lot and don’t get caught, and sometimes you do it once, and you are caught,” he says. “That’s why we use all sorts of other things to measure risk as well.”  So it’s tough to say how much your insurance premiums will rise per violation. Different insurers calculate premium costs differently, Worters says.  With the help of experts, including J. Robert Hunter, insurance director for the Washington, D.C.-based Consumer Federation of America, we now identify what are considered the five worst traffic violations for your insurance bills:
Number 1: Call it DWI or DUI, a drunken driving violation will hike your insurance costs more than any other, likely as much as a 50% increase, says Hunter, a former Texas insurance commissioner.  Your insurance company might give you a “pass” on some traffic tickets, especially if it’s your first time, but not on drunken driving, he says.  Have a few too many – in more ways than one – and you’ll likely lose your insurance, says Luedke. “It becomes a situation where we can’t charge enough in premiums to match the risk.”
How serious is the risk? In a report published last April, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, said drunken driving caused a fatality an average of every 51 minutes during 2010. And drivers with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 (the legal limit) or higher who were involved in traffic deaths were four times more likely to have had prior DUIs than sober drivers.

Number 2: Reckless driving is right up there with drunken driving as one of the biggest offenses that will guarantee a hike in your insurance costs, says Worters.  A precise definition of reckless driving varies from state to state. However, it generally means that you intentionally ignore the safety of other people or property. Violations can bring stiff penalties, including jail time.

While speeding certainly may be a factor, you can be reckless without pushing pedal to the metal, according to NHTSA. At least one state, Virginia, is considering categorizing texting while driving as a form of reckless driving.  Figure on paying 15 percent to 20 percent more for car insurance with a reckless-driving violation on your record, says Hunter.

Number 3:  As with repeat drunken driving violations, multiple speeding tickets will bring you ever-increasing insurance costs. Get enough of them, and you can bet your insurance will be canceled, say the experts.  Insurers initially may waive one speeding ticket if it’s within 10 mph over the limit, Hunter says. Some states won’t even record the ticket if you take a safe-driving class.  But if your insurer doesn’t want to cut you any slack, or you were far over the limit, speeding can raise your car insurance premium by about10 percent, according to Hunter’s research.

Chronic lead-foots also pay higher traffic fines with each ticket — up to $2,000 or more, depending on the state. And some states impose jail time.  NHTSA estimates that speeding is involved in more than 30 percent of all fatal crashes — and costs the economy more than $40 billion a year.

Number 4:  You break the law when you intentionally go through an intersection after its traffic signal turns red or roll through a right-turn-on-red without stopping.  Expect up to a 10 percent increase for running a red light, Hunter says.  If you have a tendency to breeze through red lights, your insurance premiums are probably high already. Red-light runners often have a history of accidents, DUIs, speeding and other violations, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.  Drivers who run a red light and cause a deadly accident are more likely to be drunk, speeding or driving without a valid license at the time.

In 2010, crashes involving red-light running killed 673 people and injured an estimated 122,000. About half the fatalities in these accidents are pedestrians, bicyclists and car passengers, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.  In urban areas, the most common type of collision involves drivers ignoring traffic controls, including red lights. The institute says people are hurt in nearly 4 out of 10 of those accidents.

Number 5:  Getting behind the wheel without a valid driver’s license is a serious offense that could mean an extended suspension or even a permanent revocation of your license, says Worters.  A traffic ticket for driving without a license can bring a 10 percent increase in your car insurance premium — on top of whatever rate hikes you’ve already seen for the underlying violations that caused the suspension, Hunter says.

According to the NHTSA, one study in California found that drivers with suspended or revoked licenses were involved in fatal crashes nearly four times more often than the average driver.  “Driving is a privilege, not a right,” says Worters. If you lose the privilege and keep driving anyway, don’t expect your car insurance company to be very forgiving.

Contact our agency today if you have had a violation and would like for us to run proposals with all of our carriers.  As an independent agent, our ability to canvas multiple carriers for the best possible terms saves you money – especially if you have had a recent ticket or accident.  We are here to help you learn more about Auto & Home coverage, all of your available discounts, and to help you explore your options.