Today I’d like to continue with our look at traffic tickets. Last time we looked at what the real cost of traffic tickets could be, financially speaking. Now, for those in states that use a point system, there is even more to look at.
How Many Points is a Speeding Ticket?
Some states assign demerit points for traffic ticket convictions. These points add up and when you get to a certain number, the state suspends your license. How it works differs by state, but one thing is sure, when you have too many points you’re in trouble. Typically you’ll be required to buy SR-22 insurance.
This is insurance for those considered to be high-risk drivers. This high-risk insurance is very expensive. When you don’t need it anymore, you’ll still be paying a higher rate for your regular insurance for some time.
Here is something that you may not know. Points your state assigns for a ticket are different from the ones your insurance company uses to calculate your rates. Insurance companies make their own calculations based on your record. Each company also decides which violations they are going to count. They each make their own decisions about accident fault, also.
In order for an insurance company to raise your rates, your traffic tickets must appear on your state motor vehicle record. This record shows your license status, traffic violations and accident reports.
Rates typically don’t go up unless the insurance company has occasion to check your record. Some may check your record every time you renew. Others only check every year or two, especially if you’re a long time customer with a clean record.
How Long will Traffic Tickets Affect My Rates?
This is called the look-back period. This time period differs by state and by company.
Tickets, suspensions and accidents usually have a look-back of 3 years. Some go back to the date of the incident, while others only to the date of your conviction.
Many companies will look back 5 or even 10 years for major violations, such as a DUI.
There’s one last point on this we should clear up. Your insurance company won’t raise your rate until they check your record and see the violation on there. Likewise, they won’t lower it until they check again and find the violation gone.
What Happens If I Get a Ticket Out of State?
Today most states have reciprocal agreements that automatically share information. So, you should expect a traffic ticket to show up on your record. This agreement is called the Driver’s License Compact.
45 US states and Washington, D.C. signed this agreement. The states of Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Tennessee and Wisconsin are not members. However they share and receive information anyway.
Remember, if you’re license gets suspended by a state you are visiting, it is suspended at home as well.
Some states may not assign you points on an out of state conviction. But insurance companies will rate you on a violation no matter where it occurs. If a violation is on your record, your insurance rate is going up.
Minimizing Damage from Traffic Tickets
To keep a traffic ticket off your record, you can contest it in court. Sometimes, you can plead guilty in a way that keeps the violation off your record. If you can keep a ticket off your driving record, your insurance company cannot alter your rate because of it.
When it comes to contesting a ticket, you are pleading not guilty. You will need to notify the court that you want a hearing. You can go to court yourself or hire a traffic attorney.
If you are accused of a major violation, such as a DUI, you need to hire a lawyer. Should you win, the charge is dismissed and will not appear on your record. If you lose, the penalty will stay the same and the conviction will appear on your record. You may be required to pay court costs as well.
*Note – some jurisdictions will not allow you to contest a DUI without having a lawyer
In court there is also something called mitigating circumstances. When asking for this you plead guilty but offer an explanation for your actions. The court may reduce your fine, but the conviction would go on your record. The judge can find your explanation good and drop the charge completely. In some states, the judge can change the charge to a non-moving violation.
Still another possibility is to ask for probation (deferral) or driving school. In this case you first plead guilty. If you have no further violations within a certain period of time, the current violation stays off your record. You may be assigned driving school. If properly completed, your violation is kept off your record also.
In either case, you still pay a fine and court fees, but your insurance never knows about the violation. Some jurisdictions will not offer probation or traffic school for certain violations. These include school zone and construction zone tickets or extreme cases of speeding.
Some jurisdictions have a second level of traffic tickets. These are called felony traffic violations. This is typically for traveling 21 or more miles over the limit. Mandatory attendance in court is required and fines are extremely high. You do not want one of these on your driving record.
The last thing that you can do is to try to limit the damage to yourself. If your insurance is up for renewal in the near future, you can ask the court for a continuance. If you can postpone until past your renewal date, you can save some money for another year anyway.
Hopefully things really go your way and get probation or driving school after all!
In closing, I want to be clear that this is information only. We do not advocate trying to cheat your insurance company. We also will not help you to do so. Our wish is to try to help you save money.
If you need any other help or wish to get auto insurance, MrInsurability is only a click away!