Insurance

Ask an agent: Moving violations

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If you caught The Zebra's recent Violations Report, you know that just one traffic ticket can raise your insurance rates by 70%! And those effects last for three years. So while the best advice is to just be a perfect driver and never get a ticket...the reality is mistakes happen.

Today, The Zebra's top insurance agents are answering questions about about what to do about tickets and advice for dealing with the aftermath. 

Question 1: How can I find the exact date of my speeding ticket?

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A couple of years ago, I was driving through Chandler, Arizona doing 58 mph in a 45 mph zon. I got pulled over and got a speeding ticket. The funny thing is, while I can remember the exact speed I was going and that this happened some time in 2020, I can't remember the month or the day. After it happened, I decided not to do the defensive driving class. I just paid a $245 fine and moved on. However, my insurance premium basically doubled! How long will I be paying for this? 

-Accelerated in Arizona

To get an exact date on your ticket, you will need to contact the DMV in the state the violation occurred (in this case, Arizona). In most case, you can order a record of your driving history, although it might cost a small fee.

In terms of your rate increase and how long you might pay for it, the average length of time a violation will affect your insurance rates is 3 years. That said, the increase you mentioned does seem pretty steep. In 2021, the average increase for a speeding ticket (11 - 15 miles over the in limit) in Arizona led to a rate of $1,866. The average insurance rate in Arizona without any violations was $1,439. Thus, the increase is 29%. Obviously, these are just averages over the whole state, but since the doubling you mentioned does sound atypical, it might be worth comparing rates to see if you can't get a better deal. 

Question 2: What if I get a ticket a few hours before getting insurance?

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I got pulled over and received a ticket for driving without insurance. If I get insurance online the same day this happened and show it in court, will they know I got it after I got stopped? Can I get away with getting it the same day only after the ticket was given? 

-Insincere in Iowa

It's a good rule of thumb that if your question involves insurance and the phrase "can I get away with...?" it's likely insurance fraud, and you should go ahead and not do it. If you get insurance the same day as the ticket, it will not cover the ticket. Since both the ticket and the insurance policy are time-stamped, the DMV would see that at the time of the ticket your policy was not active. You will not get away with it. But by having insurance, you will be covered the next time you get pulled over. 

Question 3: Do I have to pay a ticket I got in another state?

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I live in Texas, but I was recently driving out of state in Arkansas on vacation, and I got pulled over for speeding. The cop gave me a ticket, but I heard that I didn't have to pay it since it was from a different state than where I live. Is that true?

-Traveling fast in Texas

Nope, that's not true. You absolutely need to pay that ticket. Violations issued by police are reported to that particular state's DMV. An unpaid ticket can create all sorts of issues from a suspended license in your current state, inability to renew an expired license and even a warrant in the state where the ticket was issued.

There are instances where a ticket fails to be passed on to the DMV and never gets reported, but those situations are rare and the potential risks of not paying far outweigh the gamble. Problems may not even arise for years after the ticket, at which time the outstanding fees could be astronomical. It is a good idea to handle those tickets in a timely manner to avoid major headaches in the future. Best of luck!

Question 4: If a ticket on my record passes 3 years, is my company required to lower my rate?

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Three years ago, I received a ticket for driving while on my cell phone. It's raised my insurance rates, which I expected. Now three years has passed, and my rates haven't gone back down. I called my insurance company, and my agent says it will affect my rate for three years and two months. Is this legal or are they supposed to lower my rate once the ticket is older than three years?

-No longer patient in New York

Tickets should only be chargeable for three years from the issue date. However, some companies will not adjust your rate until your policy renews which is likely what your agent was referring to.

Yes, this is legal even if it seems a bit unfair, but there is something you can do about it. You can stick it out with your company and you should see a decrease at your renewal, or you can switch to a new company and no longer be charged for the ticket. If you're unhappy with your company, we always recommend shopping with as many companies as possible to find the best option.

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