Very few drivers make it through life without receiving any traffic tickets. However, the effect a traffic ticket has on your insurance rates may vary greatly depending on personal factors – such as whether you are considered a high risk driver, how frequently you drive, and how frequently you receive tickets.
In other words, do you really provide an increased risk to the insurer from here on out or did you just have a classic bad day? Your goal is to convince the insurance company that the latter case is true.
With a mix of pre-emptive work and damage control, you may be able to keep the ticket from raising your insurance rates.
- Understand Your Policy – The best time to find out what effect a ticket will have on your insurance rate is not immediately after you have received one. In that case, you are calling attention to an issue that may not be an issue in the first place.
Be pre-emptive. When you shop for policies, understand what your policy covers – whether there is accident forgiveness and when it applies, and how traffic incidents affect your rate based on the seriousness or frequency of their occurrence.
- Bundle Your Policies – As with any consumer transaction, a vendor is more likely to cut you some slack if you do more business with that vendor. Bundling your policies for auto/home/life may be able to buy you some relative goodwill with your insurer. They may forgive minor infractions or minimize the impact of a single offense.
- Use the Legal System – Once you plead guilty and pay the ticket, your options are pretty much finished. It does not always make sense to fight a ticket, but for more serious offenses, it may be possible to plead down to a lesser charge and have fewer points added to your license. Your rates may still go up, but perhaps the amount will be reduced.
Check the rules in your state as to whether minor traffic offenses are considered civil or criminal offenses. It may affect the likelihood of the offense being reported to the insurance company or whether it will show up on your record.
Alternative approaches such as traffic safety courses may be available to you to keep the offense off of your record. Check into the options before making any sort of plea.
Consult with an attorney if you need one, but keep things in perspective. The insurance savings of fighting a single traffic ticket may never pay off the attorney’s fees that you retain to fight the ticket in the first place. However, the more serious the offense, the more likely you are to need legal representation – and probably for more reasons than just the impact on your insurance rates.
- Don’t Do It Again –Generally, insurance companies do not consider minor traffic offenses that occurred over three to five years ago. They may even be inclined to ignore them within a shorter time, depending on the terms of the policy and whether you have any form of accident forgiveness built in.
However, if you get multiple traffic tickets with a relatively short time – for example, within a few months – you are clearly establishing a risky behavior pattern and your rates will certainly increase.
In other words, learn from your mistakes and don’t make them again.
Of course, there is one guaranteed way to keep traffic tickets from affecting your insurance rates: don’t get any in the first place.