How a Parking Ticket Impacts a Driver

a parking ticket stuck in a windshield wiper
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Driving can be great fun, but parking is almost universally a pain. In some cities, parking signs are confusing, and parking isn’t always easy to find. If you drive enough and aren’t a perfect person, chances are that once in awhile you’ll end up with a parking ticket.

If you clearly did something wrong, like parking in a no parking or street cleaning zone, you should just pay the ticket and be done with it. If you didn’t, you should quickly file an appeal so that the issue can get sorted as soon as possible.

If you do either of these things in a timely fashion, nothing bad will happen whatsoever. But even if you do so, you may be wondering if the ticket will impact your driving record. Should you try to save some money and put off paying the driving tickets indefinitely?

You probably can guess the answer: No, you should not break the law by refusing to pay fines that the police department says you owe, nor should you try to get out of paying for tickets from private rates, as we’ll discuss later.

The Information Contained on a Driving Record

Kept by your state’s DMV, a driving record enumerates every aspect of you that could impact your driving, going back at least three years. Most records include your name, gender, address, license number, classification, status, expiration and endorsement, any traffic violations or convictions, and any penalties you’ve incurred such as points and fines, and any previous suspensions and revocations or collisions you’ve had.

This driving history will impact your rate. If you’re a risky driver with lots of violations, you’ll have higher rates. If you put off paying too many parking tickets, the DMV could take drastic action: towing your vehicle or putting a boot on it or suspending your vehicle registration.

Dealing With a Parking Ticket

The easiest way to deal with a parking ticket that you received for a legitimate error on your part is to pay them immediately.

If you believe you should not have gotten a ticket, you should protest the ticket as soon as possible and secure a date for a traffic court appearance, where a judge will decide after hearing from you and the police officer who issued the citation whether or not you received the parking ticket in error.

If you don’t pay or resolve the ticket by a certain date, the amount you owe may increase. Parking tickets do not go on a driving record—they go to the financial record of a registered owner of a vehicle if they are not paid on time and could also be reported to the DMV, which could result in serious consequences.

Towing Fees

If your car is towed because you were parked in an illegal zone, you will need to go through a separate court and adjudication process to get out of paying the fine. The time period for doing so is generally much shorter, so if you think you are innocent, you should do so immediately.

Parking Tickets and the DMV

If you don’t pay a parking ticket, it will not just go away. In addition to getting sent to a collection agency, the DMV will do everything it can to get you to pay the ticket or face the consequences.

While the ticket will not directly impact your record, if you don’t pay the fine, you will be unable to renew your license plate and won’t get a renewal sticker until you do—which means any time you drive, you will be driving illegally.

The fines will likely get sent to a collection agency as well, even if the tickets are for a very small amount. If you have an obscene number of unpaid tickets—we’re talking 10 or more—your license may be immediately suspended in most states. Insurance companies will view these suspensions, even temporary ones, as very bad and irresponsible on your part, and a high insurance rate is likely to follow when you do rectify the situation and seek out a new policy.

Traffic Tickets and Risk

When your insurance company determines your monthly premium, they look at a myriad of factors to determine how risky of an investment you are—and the riskier you are, the more likely you’ll cause them financial trouble—and the more expensive your premiums will be.

The biggest factor insurance companies look at to determine your risk is your history of traffic accidents, moving violations, and traffic tickets. The amount by which it will affect your premiums will vary by insurance company, but more tickets will generally mean more money out of your pocket spent in premiums. Driving with a taillight out will cost you less than, say, a DUI conviction.

Parking tickets, on the other hand, aren’t moving violations and don’t generally cause your rate to increase—unless you don’t pay them.

Car Boot and Tow

If you refuse to pay parking tickets, things will only get worse and worse for you. Drastic measures can be taken by the police if you don’t pay up and have an extreme number of parking tickets. They can put a car boot on your vehicle, so you can’t drive or tow it to a lot until you pay up. Trust us: you don’t want to be stuck in this situation. Just pay your tickets, already!