How Long Does a Traffic Violation Stay on Your Insurance Record?
You might be feeling the effect on your driving record and insurance premiums if you’ve been the cause of an auto accident or have a few speeding tickets. Most states have clear and open rules regarding how such infractions affect your driver’s license status, and getting too many points can cause your driver’s license to be suspended or revoked.
Your driver's license record is not the same as your car insurance record, and the state can view your driver's license points differently than your car insurance carrier.
You should be aware of how traffic infractions will affect your insurance rates, and you can find out from your state's Department of Motor Vehicles how long the points stay on your record in your state. You might have to contact your insurer to find out if they handle points any differently.
How Long Does a Violation Stay on Your Record?
Most people know that a traffic ticket means higher car insurance rates, but do you know how long the unpleasant rate increase will last? It depends on several different factors.
The Insurance Carrier
Violations aren't handled the same way between each insurance carrier. Some insurance carriers might only go back two years for minor violations, while others go back three years from the incident.
Most insurance carriers offer a good driver discount after no accidents or violations for five years, and some even offer accident forgiveness if you’re generally a safe driver.
A good driver discount is offered to people who have a clean record for a certain number of years. The length of time varies by state and by insurance company, so it's a good idea to call your insurer and ask how long you'll be required to pay higher premiums.
The Type of Traffic Violation
The type of traffic violation you receive can affect the amount of time your insurance carrier surcharges your policy. Careless driving and driving under the influence are some of the worst offenses. According to an industry study, your insurance rates will increase on average about 79% for a DUI and about 73% for reckless driving. Speeding and failure to stop will raise your rates about 20%.
You might have to wait up to five years for violation points to clear your record with preferred insurance carriers. You might have to wait as many as 10 years for major violations, such as a DUI.
Most insurance carriers can see your entire driving history, but insurance carriers typically only surcharge for points occurring in the last five years.
Try checking your insurance policy's declaration page for detailed information about traffic violations and their resulting penalties. You can also call your insurance carrier's customer service number. It might feel a little more discreet when you're talking to someone at a call center versus your agent with whom you might have a closer relationship.
Your State of Residence
Depending on the state in which you reside, points will usually fall off your record in two to three years, depending on the type of violation.
Most points come off your record in one year if you live in Nevada. If you get a DUI or other serious violation, You won't get any points but you'll have your license suspended if you have a DUI or other serious violation.
Points for most violations only stay on your record for three years in California, but you'll have those points for 13 years if you have a hit-and-run or a DUI conviction.
Insurance Effects From Traffic Violations
Each state has different rules when it comes to how drivers who commit traffic violations are penalized. You can get tickets, which can cost you financially. You'll also get points on your driving record for major violations in all but nine states. Your insurance company will consider you a high-risk driver if you accumulate too many points.
Your insurance provider can’t respond by revoking your license when it catches wind of a traffic violation, as the state might do, but it might not renew your policy in serious cases.
Insurance companies assign points to their customers just as the DMV does. These points are typically different from those assigned by the DMV. They help insurers determine the rates they assign to drivers. The more serious your infraction, the more points you get, so you'll end up paying a higher insurance premium.
Your insurance might increased for a first-offense DUI/DWI, texting and driving, speeding, or for not wearing a seat belt.
You might not see an increase right away. Different insurance companies have different timetables for how and when a violation will impact your rates. You'll likely see an increase unless you got something as minor as a parking ticket.
Average Insurance Premium Increases
Take a look at the average insurance premium increase for your state after one accident:
|Insurance Premium Increase by State (Smallest to Largest)|
|Rank||State||Average Rate Increase|
|9 (tie)||North Dakota||$277|
|51||District of Columbia||$1,041|
|Average total increase:||$446|
More and more insurance carriers are offering violation and accident forgiveness. You often pay extra for this coverage, but it protects you against a rate increase in case of a minor traffic violation. Look into getting violation forgiveness once your record is clear. It often runs only a couple dollars a month more, depending on your record.
The violation will fall off eventually, so be sure to maintain an active policy if you’ve recently had an infraction. Many drivers fall into the trap of thinking that going without car insurance is the cheapest route, but being caught driving without car insurance, especially in an accident, can be financially ruinous for most drivers—not to mention illegal in most states.
Are you Doomed to Pay Higher Rates?
There are some steps you can take to help mitigate your insurance costs if you commit an infraction—especially if it's a one-time thing. Talk to your insurance company to see if you can increase your policy deductible. Doing so might help lower your premiums.
Next, look for discounts. You might qualify for some discounts to lower your out-of-pocket costs for insurance if you belong to an alumni organization or a group like AARP.
You might also be able to lower your rates by taking approved safe-driving courses, such as a defensive driving class. You can call your agent and ask for all available discounts to see which apply to you, such as a good student discount or a break if you agree to bundle your homeowners' or renter's insurance with your auto policy.
You might also save some money if you switch to an insurance company that specializes in high-risk drivers, such as those that offer SR-22 insurance. An SR-22 is actually a certificate that your insurance company files with the state when you buy your policy, and it's required as proof of financial responsibility for drivers who have had excessive tickets, accidents, or a DUI.
The Bottom Line
Traffic violations don't just affect your driving record. They also have an impact on how much insurance you pay. Your rates will go up based on the type of violation you commit and your insurer, but it doesn't mean that you're stuck with higher premiums just because you committed an infraction. Check with your insurance company to see if there are ways to keep your costs down.