Insurance head to head: Traffic violations

Which ticket will cost you more?

There are many things that will affect how much you pay for car insurance. Many of them are out of your control or difficult to change — like where you live or your credit score

But there’s one thing that’s totally in your control that can have a major impact on your car insurance premiums: how you drive.

The Zebra’s recent Violations Report found that a single ticket can increase your insurance rates up to 70%. But which ones will have the biggest impact? 

Welcome back to Insurance Head to Head, where we pit two competitors against each other to see who will pay less on car insurance. If you’ve read any previous articles in the series (here, here and here) you know we usually compare drivers on the different ratings factors (where they live, what they drive, etc.).

However, in this article, we’re comparing two people who are very much the same. And they both get into a little trouble behind the wheel.

Meet the competitors

Both of our competitors live in the same neighborhood in the same town. Since we’ll be comparing data in terms of U.S. averages, it doesn’t matter where that town is. Let’s just call it Mid-sized Town, USA. 


Jonathan is a 30-year-old single man who drives a 2017 Honda Accord EX. He likes to listen to music when he drives and sometimes can be a tad bit absentminded. He’s gotten his fair share of tickets, but as his mother always says, “he means well.” 


Kevin is also a 30-year-old single man who drives a 2017 Honda Accord EX. He can be a little aggressive when he drives, and it’s gotten him into trouble in the past. His favorite film franchise is “The Fast and the Furious” and he has a Vin Diesel quote about the importance of family tattooed on his arm. 

Now let’s see what happens when our competitors misbehave on the road and who will pay more for their mistakes.

Round #1: Speed

Kevin has a bit of a lead foot, but this time he was barely even speeding (in his opinion). He was caught going 50 mph in a 40 mph zone and received a ticket. Meanwhile, Jonathan got a ticket for driving too slowly! He was lost in his music and didn’t notice he was traveling way slower than the rest of traffic. 

Ignoring the costs of the tickets themselves, who would see their insurance premiums rise less — speed demon Kevin or slow-going Jonathan?


Kevin wins this round! The average increase for a single speeding ticket of 6 - 10 miles over the limit was 18.9%. And the increase for driving too slowly was 20.4%. 

The amount Kevin was speeding is important here. The higher the amount, the more risky the violation, and thus the bigger effect on your insurance. For example, speeding 21 - 25 miles over the limit leads to a 27.8% increase in insurance rates on average.

Round #2: Everyday offenses

Jonathan was driving to a concert at night and completely forgot to turn on his lights. He got pulled over and got a ticket. Kevin realized he missed his turn heading to the gym and did an illegal U-turn to get back on track. Unfortunately for him, a cop saw it and issued him a ticket. 

Who will see their insurance premiums rise less, document-less Jonathan or late-turner Kevin?


Jonathan wins this round! The average increase for driving without lights is 11.7%. The average increase for an illegal turn is almost double that at 21.3%.

Round #3: Inside the car

Not all violations directly affect other drivers on the road, and they can still increase your insurance rates. 

Jonathan lost his wallet for the third time this year. He didn’t have his driver's license or registration on him when he got pulled over, so he got a ticket for failure to show documents. Kevin got pulled over for not wearing his seatbelt. 

Who will see a smaller bump in their insurance rates, forgetful Jonathan or daredevil Kevin?



Kevin wins this round! The average increase in insurance rate for not wearing a seatbelt is 10.5%, while the average increase for failure to show documents is 13.5%.

Round #4: What were you thinking??

We’ve covered some of the smaller hijinx that Jonathan and Kevin have gotten into. But now the true confessions. Both our competitors have at least one very serious violation on their records. 

After he rewatched the immortal classic “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” one night, Kevin and his friends decided to try their hand at street racing. Spoiler: it ended badly. Kevin got a ticket on his record for racing, and he’s permanently banned from that Walmart parking lot.

As for Jonathan, he was returning from a party and didn’t realize he was over the legal limit. Luckily, no one was hurt, but he received a ticket for driving while intoxicated. 

Both of these offenses will cause a major jump in insurance rates for our competitors, but who do you think will make it out with a smaller increase: Jonathan with his DUI or Kevin with his failed dreams of drifting?


Jonathan wins this round! It’s a hollow victory because with a DUI on his record, his insurance rates stand to rise an average of 61.9%! However, the increase for racing is even higher. Kevin stands to see a 65.4% increase in his insurance rates.

Curious what the violation that leads to the highest bump is? That would be a hit-and-run which leads to a 70.4% increase on average. Luckily, neither Jonathan nor Kevin would do that.

Bonus round: How long will these violations affect Kevin and Jonathan?

Kevin and Jonathan have both vowed to clean up their acts and become more responsible drivers. However, their past mistakes won’t go away right away. How long do violations continue to affect your insurance rates?

Three years

They will be paying the elevated rates for three years. It may even be a little bit longer, as your insurance company may wait until you renew to offer you the lower rate.

Even if you’ve made some questionable choices behind the wheel and seen your rates increase, you still might be able to save. You can enter your driving history here by answering just a few questions and compare car insurance companies to find the best rate.