You might be feeling the impact on your driving record and insurance costs if you’ve been the cause of a car accident or have a few speeding tickets. Most states have clear and open rules about how these affect your driver’s license status. 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. Your state can view your driver's license points differently from your car insurance carrier.
You should be aware of how traffic infractions will impact your insurance rates. 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 how they handle points.
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 rate increase will last? It depends on three factors.
1. The Insurance Carrier
Violations aren't handled the same way between each insurance carrier. Some carriers might only go back two years for minor violations, while others go back three years from the incident.
Many carriers offer a good driver discount after no accidents or violations for five years. 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 insurer, so it's a good idea to call and ask how long you'll be required to pay higher premiums.
2. The Type of Traffic Violation
The type of traffic violation you receive can affect the amount of time your carrier surcharges your policy. Careless driving and driving under the influence are some of the worst offenses. According to an industry study, your 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 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 dec page for more information about traffic violations and the penalties. You can also call your carrier's customer service number. It might feel a little more discreet when you're talking to someone at a call center, rather than your agent with whom you might have a closer relationship.
3. The State Where You Live
Depending on the state where you live, points will usually fall off your record in two to three years. It depends 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.
Points for most things 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.
Insurance Impacts From Traffic Violations
Each state has different rules when it comes to drivers who commit traffic violations. You can get tickets, which can cost you money. You'll also get points on your driving record for major violations in almost every state. Your insurance company will consider you a high-risk driver if you gain too many points.
Your insurer can’t respond by taking away your license when it catches wind of a traffic violation, as the state might do. But in serious cases, it might not renew your policy.
Insurance companies assign points to their customers just as the DMV does. These points are often different from those assigned by the DMV. They help determine the rates they assign to drivers. The more serious your infraction, the more points you get. This means 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 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 insurers 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 forgiveness once your record is clear. It often runs only a couple of 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 costly for most drivers. It's also illegal in most states.
Are You Doomed to Pay Higher Rates?
There are some steps you can take to help lower your insurance costs if you commit an infraction—especially if it's a one-time thing. Talk to your insurer 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. For instance, this could be the case 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. These could include a good student discount or a break if you agree to bundle your other insurance with your auto policy.
You might also save some money if you switch to an insurer that specializes in high-risk drivers, such as those that offer SR-22 insurance. An SR-22 is a certificate that your insurance company files with the state when you buy your policy. It's required as proof of financial responsibility for drivers who have had many 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 your insurance costs. Your rates will go up based on the type of violation you commit and your insurer. But this doesn't have to mean that you're stuck with higher premiums. Check with your insurer to see if there are ways to keep your costs down.