Explore ways to save on auto insurance in California with tickets, citations or accidents on your driving record.
Why you can trust The Zebra
If you have caused a car accident, filed an at-fault claim, or been handed a citation for a major moving violation, you could be a candidate for high-risk car insurance. Car insurance for high-risk drivers is typically pricey, but the degree of price increase you face may depend on your auto insurance company, your driving history, and the state in which you live.
If you’re found responsible for an auto collision, you should expect your auto insurance rates to rise. In California, the average insurance rate following an at-fault accident is $2,435 versus the nationwide average of $2,012. A major incident like an at-fault crash will stay on your insurance résumé for up to three years!
|Location||With At-Fault Accident — Annual Rate||No At-Fault Accident — Annual Rate||Yearly Rate Increase|
The best insurance company after an at-fault accident in California is USAA. USAA’s typical premium increase after a crash is $756, resulting in a premium 31% less expensive than the average from all car insurance companies. If you've been found at fault in a collision in California, steer clear of GEICO and State Farm, which are on the pricier end of the spectrum.
|Insurance Company||Annual Rate After an At-Fault Crash|
|CSAA Insurance Group||$2,001|
One of the violations that commonly earn drivers the "high-risk" tag is speeding. In California, you can expect to see your premiums grow by $633 per year after a speeding ticket, to an average annual rate of $2,346.
|State||With a Speeding Ticket — Annual Rate||No Speeding Ticket — Annual Rate||Annual Rate Increase|
The foolproof way to find cheap insurance after a speeding citation is to shop around and compare your options. The cheapest car insurance with a speeding citation in California is available via USAA. USAA’s average premium after a violation is $1,233 less than the state average. If you are caught speeding in California, CSAA Insurance Group might not be the most affordable option.
|Insurer||Annual Premium With a Speeding Citation|
|CSAA Insurance Group||$2,001|
A distracted driving citation means one side effect will be increased car insurance rates. In California, car insurance costs typically increase by $99 per year. That comes out to a 6% increase from the average yearly premium in California, and 42% less than the national average cost of car insurance after a ticket for distracted driving.
|Location||With Distracted Driving — Annual Rate||No Distracted Driving — Annual Rate||Annual Rate Increase|
The easiest way to find affordable car insurance after a distracted driving ticket is to compare carriers. The cheapest auto insurance insurer after being ticketed for distracted driving in California is USAA, with a typical rate of just $1,065 per year, 41% less than the average distracted driving insurance rate among top insurers.
|Insurance Company||Annual Rate After Distracted Driving|
Racing is treated as an extraordinarily serious offense. Insurance companies commonly penalize racing citations severely — in fact, California auto insurance premiums go up by an average of $2,144 annually following a citation for racing. That's a 125% increase on the typical yearly auto insurance premium in California!
|Location||With a Racing Citation — Annual Rate||No Racing Citation — Annual Rate||Per-Year Rate Increase|
If you've been pulled over for racing, do your due diligence and seek out the most affordable rates. In California, grab a quote from Mercury, with rates 51% cheaper than the state average after a racing violation.
|Insurer||Annual Rate With Racing|
Among the most serious driving violations, reckless driving is a surefire way to pay more for auto insurance. Auto insurance companies raise rates by an average of $3,154 annually after a ticket for reckless driving. That comes out to 184% more than the typical auto insurance rate in California, and 158% more than the national average penalty for a reckless driving ticket.
|Location||With Reckless Driving — Annual Rate||No Reckless Driving — Annual Rate||Yearly Rate Increase|
If you're looking for car insurance after a reckless driving ticket, you should shop around to find the best rate. In California, the cheapest car insurance company with a reckless driving ticket is Mercury.
|Company||Annual Rate With Reckless Driving|
If you are seeking auto insurance as a high-risk driver, the best course of action is to do your research and find the policy that fits.
California maintains a set of traffic laws designed to maximize the safety of all those who share the road. Failure to maintain proper speed limits, refrain from reckless or distracted driving, or participate in racing can lead to lengthy fines and penalties. At-fault accidents in California may also result in harsh penalties, especially for those who are uninsured.
California has a “basic speed law” in place which requires drivers to refrain from driving faster than conditions allow, regardless of the posted speed limit. Drivers should pay attention to:
The maximum speed limit on most California highways is 65 miles per hour unless signs specify a maximum speed limit of 70 miles per hour.
Other speed limits in California:
In some cases or locations, speeds may be adjusted. When driving in California, be sure to pay attention to posted speed limits, as they may vary from the above.
Speeding in California is a costly offense. A wealth of fees and added assessments are commonly appended to the below base fines.
Speeding in California at a rate of speed 100 miles per hour or more results in base fees of:
Driving at more than 100 miles per hour subjects violators to enhanced penalties.
For the first offense, violators will face:
A second speeding offense within three years of a previous conviction for driving more than 100 miles per hour in California leads to:
A third offense within five years of a previous conviction for driving more than 100 miles per hour in California subjects violators to:
In addition, all speeding offenses result in at least one point against the driver’s license.
You are guilty of reckless driving in California if you drive “in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” In general, this means if you make a choice not to obey traffic laws or to drive dangerously, you are driving recklessly.
A standard reckless driving charge occurs when a driver is guilty of a typical reckless driving offense. Such a violation is a misdemeanor and may result in:
Penalties are enhanced for a reckless driving offense taking place for a commercial purpose, such as filming or photographing for a movie or advertisement. This is a misdemeanor violation and leads to up to:
A reckless driving offense that leads to injury to another person is a misdemeanor and results in:
Of special note are reckless driving offenses that lead to certain types of injuries, including concussions, loss of consciousness, paralysis, brain injuries, and fractures. Such offenses may be considered either a misdemeanor or a felony based on the extent of injury done to another.
If a reckless driving charge is treated as a felony, the violator may be imprisoned for 16 months to three years.
All reckless driving offenses result in the accumulation of at least two points against a driver’s license.
Distracted driving in California is a major threat to driving safely. Drivers are considered to be driving while distracted if their attention is anywhere other than the actual act of driving.
In California, distracted driving is categorized in three ways:
Distracted driving in California may occur in a number of ways, including:
Drivers are considered to be driving distracted in California if they are holding a cell phone or other wireless device(s) while driving. They are, however, allowed to use hands-free functionality or to mount the device.
It is also allowed for drivers to single-swipe or tap the screen to activate or deactivate a feature, but they are not allowed to text, scroll, or tap the device multiple times.
Drivers under age 18 are not allowed to use a wireless device in any capacity while driving in California.
Read here for more on texting and driving statistics.
Distracted driving in California can result in costly fines but does not add points against a driver’s license.
Each fine for distracted driving is a base fine. An actual citation will likely be more expensive than the below fines due to any extra assessments.
For talking on a cell phone, the first offense results in a base fine of $50.
The base fine for texting or otherwise using a wireless device while driving in California is $20 for a first offense and $50 for any subsequent offenses.
Underage drivers are subject to the same penalties as adults for distracted driving in California.
Racing in California is also referred to as speed contests. Speed contests involve a race between two vehicles, using a clock or “other timing device.”
Street races, speed races, and drag races all fall within the definition of “speed contests” in California.
California also considers it illegal to participate in an exhibition of speed. An exhibition of speed in California involves accelerating or driving at a dangerous or unsafe rate of speed in an effort to show off or impress at least one onlooker.
The penalties for a first-time racing offense in California are:
A second conviction within five years of a previous speed contest conviction in California results in:
If a speed contest results in injury to a person other than the violator, the charge is upgraded to a felony, and penalties are substantially enhanced.
A conviction for an exhibition of speed in California results in:
Those who watch, engage, aid, or participate in or at a speed contest are also breaking the law and subject to citations.
California is considered a fault-based state. Following an accident, fault is assigned to one or more drivers for the purposes of liability and compensation.
However, it is possible for all parties to an accident to have some share of fault. A driver’s compensation may be reduced by the percent of the accident for which they have been deemed at-fault.
In most places in California, the minimum amount of car insurance coverage must be:
Following an accident in California, you must file a written report of the accident to the California Highway Patrol or local police department within 24 hours if the accident:
In most cases, a police officer will file the report on-scene on your behalf.
The base fine for driving without insurance in California, whether or not it leads to an accident, is $100 to $200 for a first offense. A second offense will cost you between $200 and $500. As with other traffic violations in California, these fines will also involve additional assessments and fees.
In addition, your vehicle may be impounded and your license suspended for up to four years.
Being found at-fault for an accident in California also results in the accumulation of one point against your driver’s license.
Sources and references:
The Zebra is not an insurance company. We publish data-backed, expert-reviewed resources to help consumers make more informed insurance decisions.