Traffic Violations and Car Insurance

Auto insurance rate calculations often seem like a mystery, especially when it comes to traffic violations and tickets. What impact does that citation have on your insurance premiums? Keep reading to find out.

How Do Traffic Violations Affect Your Car Insurance?

Car insurance providers regard traffic violations or tickets as indicators of increased insurance risk. The idea behind this concept is simple: your policy provider believes if you're willing to break laws designed to preserve road safety, you're more likely to put yourself and others in harm's way.

Of course, not every violation you commit is indicative of a flagrant disregard for other people's well-being. Nonetheless, insurance companies prefer to take a risk-averse stance designed to minimize their potential losses.

Is It Legal to Raise Your Rates for a Citation?

The practice of raising your premium following a high-risk event, like a collision or traffic violation, is referred to as adding a surcharge. The rules concerning how insurers can apply surcharges can differ from state to state.

In New York, for example, violation-related surcharges are only permissible in instances where a court convicted you of the offense in question. In Massachusetts, however, you can also incur rate hikes if a judge or magistrate commands you to complete an alcohol education program or you pay a fine for a violation.

It's important to understand how the law varies from one jurisdiction to another. A few examples of incidents that mandate a raise in your auto insurance rates include:

  • Convictions for involuntary manslaughter, criminally negligent driving or other major vehicular crimes.
  • Driving under the influence or with an invalid license.
  • Committing certain moving violations, such as speeding.
  • Driving without insurance.

Depending on the nature of your traffic conviction, surcharges could remain on your premiums for many years.

Traffic Violations & Insurance Discounts

Surcharge increases aren't the only ways your auto insurance premiums might increase following a violation. As the Oklahoma Insurance Department notes, you could also lose discounts you previously enjoyed for having a clean driving record.

Having a traffic ticket on your driving record might also disqualify you from certain insurance products altogether. Certain low-cost car insurance programs may not be available to you if you've recently been convicted on a moving violation. Such an outcome could increase your coverage costs since you'll have to purchase a more expensive plan.

Combatting Citation-Related Rate Increases

You may be able to file an appeal with your insurance provider when there are citation-related increases in your auto insurance rates. However, if your carrier doesn't allow accept the appeal, there may be other ways to mitigate the added expense.

You can start by investigating the discount programs your car insurer offers. For instance, if you're a low-mileage driver, good student, or senior citizen, you might be able to slice some money off your premium to make up for your traffic citations. Taking a defensive driving class could also qualify you for significant discounts and even remove points from your driving record.

Make sure you investigate the laws in your state of residence to find out how long insurers can legally apply surcharges to your policy. If your insurer is hiking your rates for something that happened many years ago, you should definitely give them a call. Keep up with your plan to ensure that it reflects current information as your driving record improves.

Finally, you should compare different quotes to see if you'll fare better with a new policy provider. A different auto insurer could offer you cheaper rates than your current carrier, despite your traffic citations. Comparing alternative insurance products on a regular basis can give you more leverage and bargaining power.