How Does a Careless Driving Ticket Affect My Car Insurance

You’re on a family road trip and it’s been a long day. Your husband or wife fell fast asleep after driving their 5 hours, and now it’s up to you to get your family safely to the next stop on your journey. You make sure to keep the AC on full blast and have been chugging coffee to make sure you don’t fall asleep, but the wide open night road combined with your fatigue leads you to start nodding off.

Then, you see it in your rearview mirror: the dreaded flashing lights of an approaching police car. You try to stifle your yawn as the officer comes up to your vehicle and tells you you’ve been weaving back and forth between the lanes. He can tell you’re sober and just sleepy, but you still leave the exchange with a ticket for careless driving -- and a strongly worded suggestion to get your family to the nearest hotel rather than keep driving endlessly into the night.

You’re thankful nothing bad happened as a result of your carelessness, but you can’t help but wonder what this will mean for your car insurance rates.

A careless driving ticket can be very expensive. Once you’ve paid the state fees, you are left wondering how a careless driving ticket will affect your car insurance rates.

Your Car Insurance Payment Will Go Up

I'm sure you've guessed it already: your car insurance payment will go up if you get a careless driving ticket.

The real questions are how much will it go up, when will it go up, and for how long?

How Much Will It Go Up?

Well, it probably isn't going to be pretty. I cannot put a dollar amount on it for you, and if it hasn't hit your car insurance policy yet, your agent might even have a tough time telling you the expected rate increase.

A lot of things go into factoring your rate: a young driver may get hit harder than middle aged driver. I'd expect anywhere between a 10% to a 40% rate increase.

When Will My Rate Go Up?

Tickets are included in your rate at renewal. Typically your car insurance is recalculated every 6 months (sometimes only once a year). Your driving record is pulled and any changes are included in your new rate. If your renewal was already in the process of being calculated, you might have just avoided the increase for 6 months. If you are slated for renewal next month, look for the increase then.

How Long Will I Pay a Higher Rate?

Insurance policies can vary, but most will keep the ticket on your record for 3 years. However, most of the time, you will not be eligible for a violation-free discount for 5 years. So, to get back to preferred status, you are looking at 5 years.

What If I Already Had a Recent Traffic Violation?

If the careless driving ticket was your second or third traffic violation within the last three years, you could be looking at having your car insurance policy non-renewed. This would mean your insurance carrier no longer wants to insure you because of your high-risk status. Plan on shopping for a new policy with a high-risk insurance carrier.

Switching insurance companies in these circumstances usually result in a higher rate because the newest ticket will be factored into your rate.

Where Do I Go From Here?

Dwelling on the past won't change anything.Traffic tickets are always frustrating, but it is time to deal with the consequences and be on your best behavior.

• Do not let your car insurance policy lapse.

• Make your payments on time.

• Avoid more tickets. Staying out of trouble is the fastest way to make these high rates go away.

• Consider consulting with a trusted lawyer before paying any traffic tickets: they may be able to help you figure out how to avoid costly insurance penalties.