How Do Traffic Citations Affect Your Auto Insurance Rates?

Writing for the Personal Finance: Lifestyle & Budget section of, Penny Gusner recently field a question about traffic tickets and auto insurance. The question asked Gusner to compare the effect of reckless driving versus a citation for driving under the influence (DUI) on a driver’s auto insurance costs.

In her answer, Gusner said that an arrest for DUI can elevate auto insurance premiums from 30 to 300 percent. In fact, a DUI can also result in loss of your driver’s license, which you cannot regain unless you can show proof of auto insurance that satisfies your state’s minimum requirement.

The required proof is called a SR22 form, which will prove to the state that you have insurance, but it will likely be a new policy re-negotiated with your insurer at a much higher premium rate. The reason is simple. The DUI rightfully elevates your risk profile in the eyes of the insurance company.

Other Traffic Violations Carry Lesser Insurance Consequences

For other traffic citations, however, each insurer works on an in-house rating system, and some minor tickets may actually be ignored. For others, a surcharge will be levied per violation. Commonly, first tickets are overlooked, especially if your driving record is clean, or if there is a long length of time between citations.

It’s never a good idea to just assume your insurance rates are unaffected by a ticket, however. If you are cited for any offense, check your rates. If they go up, it may be time to shop for a new policy. Because the “pay as you drive” insurance model is becoming increasingly popular, drivers who have had high rates in the past may have an “out.”

Newer Auto Insurance Models Changing Rate Scenarios

In the “pay as you drive” model, the driver agrees to the installation of an onboard data collection device. Information will be gathered about factors like speed and miles driven, but in some cases time of day, and the manner in which the car is driven may also be taken into account.

Studies have already shown that drivers who have these onboard monitoring devices exhibit safer behavior. This is not only an affect of simply being “watched,” but the policies have online monitoring components. Policy holders can actually see the affect of their behavior on their rates.

In the final analysis, the cleaner your driving record, the lower your auto insurance premiums. Not all tickets are equal, and infractions like a DUI will have a disastrous effect on your premiums. Auto insurance models are changing, however, and monitored policies may make it easier to regain a reasonable premium rate in the wake of serious traffic citations.

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