If you’ve been the cause of an auto accident or have racked up a few speeding tickets, you may be feeling the effect on your driving record and insurance premiums. Most states have clear and open rules regarding how such infractions affect your driver’s license status, and getting too many points may 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 may need to contact your insurer to find out if they handle points any differently.
Long Does a Traffic Violation Stay on Your Record?
Most people know 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 are not handled the same way between each insurance carrier. Some insurance carriers may only go back two years for minor violations, while others might 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 insurance company 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 percent for a DUI and about 73 percent for reckless driving. Speeding and failure to stop, on the other hand, will raise your rates about 20 percent.
You may have to wait up to five years for violation points to clear your record with preferred insurance carriers. Most insurance carriers can see your entire driving history, but insurance carriers typically only surcharge for points occurring in the last five years.
Don’t feel like calling and asking your insurance agent? 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 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. If you live in Nevada, most points come off your record in one year. If you get a DUI or other serious violation, you won’t get any points but you will have your license suspended. In California, points for most violations only stay on your record for three years, but if you have a hit-and-run or DUI conviction, you’ll keep those points on your record for 10 years.
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. For major violations, in all but nine states, you will also get points on your driving record. If you rack up too many points, your insurance company will consider you a high-risk driver.
When your insurance provider catches wind of a traffic violation, it can’t respond by revoking your license as the state may do, but in serious cases, it may not renew your policy—a position in which you don’t want to find yourself. And just like the DMV, insurance companies assign points to their customers.
These points are typically different than those assigned by the DMV. These points help insurers determine what rates they assign to drivers. The more serious your infraction, the more points you get, which means you’ll end up paying a higher insurance premium.
The increase in premium varies by state, but if you live in Washington, D.C., you’ll pay about $1,041 more than an average driver, and Kentucky drivers will pay around $893 dollars more per year. New York drivers, on the low end of the spectrum, only pay $80 more per year. As of 2019, regardless of where you live, your insurance will increase by about 79 percent for a first-offense DUI/DWI, 23 percent for texting and driving, 20 percent for speeding (15 miles over limit or less), and 3 percent for not wearing a seat belt.
You may not see an increase right away, but you’re not off the hook. Different insurance companies simply have different timetables for how and when a violation will impact your rates. Unless you got something as minor as a parking ticket, you’ll likely see an increase. Overall, most insurance companies won’t adjust policy pricing until you’re up for renewal.
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. Once your record is clear, look into getting violation forgiveness. It often runs only a couple dollars a month more, depending on your record.
The violation will fall off eventually, so if you’ve recently racked up an infraction, make sure to maintain an active policy. Many drivers fall into the trap of thinking that going without car insurance is the cheapest route. However, being caught driving without car insurance, especially in an accident, can be financially ruinous for most drivers—not to mention illegal in most states.
Many people who make this unfortunate choice do not realize the extremely expensive high-risk rates that drivers without a prior in-force car insurance policy pay once they do try to buy insurance. If you keep your car insurance policy active and drive safely, rest assured your traffic violations will eventually come off of your record.
Are you Doomed to Pay Higher Rates After a Violation?
Not necessarily. Just because you commit an infraction—especially if it’s a one-time thing— there are some steps you can take to help mitigate your insurance costs.
First, talk to your insurance company and see if you can increase your policy deductible. Doing so may help lower your premiums. Next, look for discounts. If you belong to an alumni organization or a group like AARP, you may qualify for some discounts to lower your out-of-pocket costs for insurance.
You may also be able to lower your rates by taking approved safe-driving courses like 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 may also save some money if you switch to an insurance company that specializes in high-risk drivers, such as insurers that offer SR-22 insurance for people with a DUI, another serious violation, or a high number of points on their record. 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 just because you committed an infraction doesn’t mean you’re stuck with higher premiums. Check with your insurance company to see if there are ways to keep your costs down.