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Kristine Lee

Insurance Analyst

  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty
  • 4+ years of Experience in the Insurance Industry

Kristine is a licensed insurance agent who joined The Zebra in 2019 as an in-house content researcher and writer. Before joining The Zebra, she was a…

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Ross Martin

Insurance Writer

  • 4+ years in the Insurance Industry

Ross joined The Zebra as a writer and researcher in 2019. He specializes in writing insurance content to help shoppers make informed decisions.

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Auto insurance for high risk drivers in California

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.

What goes into auto insurance rates for high-risk drivers in California? — table of contents:
  1. At-fault accidents
  2. Speeding
  3. Distracted driving
  4. Racing
  5. Reckless driving
  6. View California driving laws


What impact does an at-fault collision have on auto insurance in California?


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
California $2,435 $1,713 $722
National Average $2,012 $1,397 $615

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
USAA $1,679
Mercury $1,822
CSAA Insurance Group $2,001
GEICO $2,145
State Farm $2,285

Compare California's top car insurance companies!

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Does a speeding ticket increase car insurance rates in California?


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
California $2,346 $1,713 $633
National Average $1,727 $1,397 $330

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
USAA $1,113
Mercury $1,457
GEICO $1,571
21st Century $1,781
CSAA Insurance Group $2,001


How does a ticket for distracted driving impact car insurance premiums in California?


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
California $1,812 $1,713 $99
National Average $1,570 $1,397 $173

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
USAA $1,065
21st Century $1,320
GEICO $1,385
Mercury $1,457
United Financial $1,459


How does being cited for racing impact car insurance rates in California?


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
California $3,857 $1,713 $2,144
National Average $2,397 $1,397 $1,000

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
Mercury $1,882
USAA $2,659
California Automobile $2,791
GEICO $3,244
21st Century $3,949


Does a citation for reckless driving in California raise car insurance rates?


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
California $4,867 $1,713 $3,154
National Average $2,395 $1,397 $998

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
Mercury $1,882
USAA $2,132
California Automobile $2,791
GEICO $3,244
Progressive $3,317

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.


Find the cheapest car insurance in California today!

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California driving laws

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.

Speeding in California

When are you speeding in California?

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 number of vehicles on the road
  • The speed of other vehicles on the road
  • Road condition
  • Pedestrians and cyclists
  • Weather conditions

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:

  • 55 miles per hour on two-lane undivided highways
  • 55 miles per hour for vehicles towing trailers
  • 25 miles per hour within 500 to 1,000 feet of a school (sometimes reduced to 15 miles per hour)
  • 25 miles per hour in business or residential districts
  • 15 miles per hour approaching a blind intersection
  • 15 miles per hour in alleys
  • 15 miles per hour within 100 feet of a railroad or light rail transit vehicle crossing that is not controlled by gates, a warning signal, or flagman
  • 10 miles per hour when passing streetcars, trolleys, or buses

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.

Penalties for speeding in California

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:

  • $35 for exceeding the speed limit by one to 15 miles per hour
  • $70 for exceeding the speed limit by 16 to 25 miles per hour
  • $100 for exceeding the speed limit by 26 or more miles per hour

Driving at more than 100 miles per hour subjects violators to enhanced penalties.

For the first offense, violators will face:

  • A base fine of $500
  • License suspension for 30 days

A second speeding offense within three years of a previous conviction for driving more than 100 miles per hour in California leads to:

  • A base fine of $750
  • License suspension for six months

A third offense within five years of a previous conviction for driving more than 100 miles per hour in California subjects violators to:

  • A base fine of $1, 000
  • License suspension for one year

In addition, all speeding offenses result in at least one point against the driver’s license.


Reckless driving in California

What is reckless driving in California?

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.

Penalties for reckless driving in California

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:

  • Five to 90 days in jail
  • $145 to $1, 000 in fines

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:

  • Six months in jail
  • $2,500 in fines

A reckless driving offense that leads to injury to another person is a misdemeanor and results in:

  • 30 days to six months in jail
  • $200 to $1,000 in fines

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

What is distracted driving in California?

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:

  • Visual
  • Cognitive
  • Manual

Distracted driving in California may occur in a number of ways, including:

  • Using a handheld device, like a cell phone or tablet
  • Eating
  • Not paying attention to the roadway
  • Reading
  • Grooming

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.

Penalties for distracted driving in California

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

What is racing 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.

Penalties for racing in California

The penalties for a first-time racing offense in California are:

  • One to 90 days in jail
  • $355 to $1, 000 in fines
  • Possible license suspension for 90 days to six months
  • 40 hours of community service
  • Vehicle impounded for one to 30 days

A second conviction within five years of a previous speed contest conviction in California results in:

  • Four days to six months in jail
  • $500 to $1,000 in fines
  • License suspension for six months

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:

  • Up to 90 days in jail
  • Up to $500 in fines
  • Up to 50 hours of community service
  • License suspension for up to six months
  • Vehicle impounded for up to 30 days

Those who watch, engage, aid, or participate in or at a speed contest are also breaking the law and subject to citations.


At-fault accidents in California

What is an at-fault accident in California?

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:

  • $15,000 for a single death or injury
  • $30,000 for death or injury to more than one person
  • $5,000 for property damage

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:

  • Resulted in injury or death
  • Caused more than $750 of property damage

In most cases, a police officer will file the report on-scene on your behalf.

Penalties for at-fault accidents in California

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.

See just how much you can save on your next policy.

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Sources and references:

Auto insurance for high risk drivers in California

Have a specific question about high risk car insurance in California? Ask one of our licensed agents!

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About The Zebra

The Zebra is not an insurance company. We publish data-backed, expert-reviewed resources to help consumers make more informed insurance decisions.

  • The Zebra’s insurance content is written and reviewed for accuracy by licensed insurance agents.
  • The Zebra’s insurance editorial content is not subject to review or alteration by insurance companies or partners.
  • The Zebra’s editorial team operates independently of the company’s partnerships and commercialization interests, publishing unbiased information for consumer benefit.
  • The auto insurance rates published on The Zebra’s pages are based on a comprehensive analysis of car insurance pricing data, evaluating more than 83 million insurance rates from across the United States.