August 23, 2013
We all know that sinking feeling when you get pulled over for a traffic violation. If you're lucky, you might just get a "fix-it" ticket for a broken tail light. But what if it was a more serious offense, like speeding or reckless driving? Depending on your driving record, you could get slapped with a sizeable penalty or even a jail sentence – and your insurance rates will almost certainly go up.
Let's say you absentmindedly ran through a stop sign or made an illegal left-hand turn. You'll probably know right away how much the ticket will cost, but it could take months before your insurance company receives notice of the infraction and adjusts your premium.
If the suspense is killing you, Insurance.com has a handy tool called the "Uh-Oh! Calculator" that estimates the average rate increases for the 14 most common traffic violations. And, if you enter your age, ZIP code, residence type, marital status, length of time with your insurance carrier and current premium, the calculator will generate a more customized estimate based on your personal data.
Some of the average premium increases are pretty shocking:
If you plug in your personal data, the calculator will tell you how many points will be added to your driving record per infraction, as well as information on the state's rules for when driving privileges can be suspended or revoked.
Another company, DMV.org, features a "Ticket Fines and Penalties" tool that provides an even more detailed state-by-state analysis of what various infractions can cost, procedures for paying – or challenging – your ticket, how points are calculated, how long it takes to clear infractions from your record, links to local traffic schools and much more.
So, assuming you're not going to challenge the ticket in court, the damage has been done and your insurance rates will likely climb – what can you do to lower your premium? Here are a few tips:
The best way to avoid traffic violation-related rate increases is to not break the law in the first place. But if that horse has already left the barn, arm yourself with information about coverage costs and how you might be able to lower your rates.
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