How Long Will I Be a High Risk Driver?

Insurance companies set their rates based on risk. If you've been involved in accidents or you've been cited for traffic violations, insurance companies view you as a higher-risk driver, and your rates increase accordingly.

Being classified as a high-risk driver doesn't have to last forever. You can influence how long your status lasts by keeping insurance continuously in force and working to improve your driving record.

Understanding how long you will be a high-risk driver allows you to switch to a cheaper insurance policy as soon as possible. The length of time you are considered high risk depends on what made you a high risk in the first place.

Here are the most common reasons for being classified as a high-risk driver and the effect each reason has on your driving record.

No Prior Insurance

Smiling woman wearing sunglasses while driving car
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Paying a higher rate on your auto insurance due to not carrying insurance is frustrating. Car insurance is important to keep at all times because of the surcharge for a lapse. A surcharge is an added charge to your insurance. Once you get ​car insurance again, you'll be paying high-risk rates for at least six continuous months.

Once you obtain a policy, it's in your best interest to keep the same policy for six months. If you switch before your six months is up, you will have to start your six months over, lengthening the time you pay the high-risk rate. You may be able to use multiple declaration pages to prove six months of coverage, but the hassle usually isn't worth the savings.

Multiple Tickets

Minor violations typically affect your insurance rates for three years. If you are high risk due to multiple tickets or at-fault accidents, you can typically secure coverage with a preferred carrier once your oldest violation falls off. After a violation is three years old, it typically comes off your record, but you have to wait for your renewal to see a difference in your rate if you're staying with the same carrier.

Ask your insurance agent to give you the dates of all your violations. Switching to a preferred carrier the day after your violation falls off is a great way to save money quickly. If you have a few other drivers under your policy, you could work with your current carrier and leverage leaving to secure a discounted rate. 

Not all insurance companies are the same. Some only count tickets received within the last two years. But for multiple tickets, the term can be extended to three years.

Major Violation

A major violation like a DUI can affect your insurance rate for up to five years with some insurance carriers. Some insurance carriers don't increase rates for as long, but a preferred rate probably won't be available until five years have passed.

A major violation usually comes with an extra requirement from the state. The state wants to be notified of your insurance coverage at all times and know that it meets state minimum requirements. To do that, an SR-22 filing is added to your car insurance policy.

Although you may hear the term, "SR-22 insurance," SR-22 isn't a type of insurance. It's the requirement to file your policy with the state, and insurance companies charge more for drivers who require an SR-22. You may have the same filing requirement if you were caught driving without car insurance.

Start shopping around for an insurance carrier that does not surcharge for major violations after three years once your ticket is more than three years old. Start shopping again after five years to verify you are getting the cheapest car insurance possible.

The Bottom Line

It's tough being stuck with the high rates associated with high-risk driver status. Many high-risk drivers spend more than the allotted time with high-risk rates because they don't keep continuous insurance coverage. Your actions can easily affect the length of time required to get out of high-risk insurance rates. More tickets and a lapse in coverage can extend your high rates infinitely. Keep your driving record in check and keep your insurance policy in effect at all times to escape high-risk rates.