Research

Study: Six types of driving violations cause insurance rate hikes of 60% or more

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Just because fewer people were on the roads in 2020 due to the pandemic, the streets weren’t necessarily safer. In 2020, people drove 13% fewer miles than in 2019, but according to the National Safety Council (NSC), 42,060 people are estimated to have died in motor vehicle crashes last year. That’s an 8% increase in deaths over 2019. When comparing that rate of deaths to miles driven, the NSC found that 2020 had the highest rate of roadway deaths in 96 years.  

Deadly accidents, racing, not buckling a seatbelt, and plenty more offenses can cause insurance rates to rise. Insurance companies take all driving violations into account when calculating the cost of policies every year. If someone happens to be ticketed for a driving violation, they could see their car insurance costs rise from anywhere between .6% to a whopping 73.3% ($9-$1,083) on average. Plus, driving violations typically stay on a person’s driving record for at least three years, which means they’ll be paying the rate hike for a while. 

The amount drivers pay for breaking traffic laws depends on the violation and which state they live in. A new rate study by The Zebra reveals the impact driving violations have on car insurance and what steps drivers can take to reduce that impact.

Key findings
  • A single traffic ticket can raise insurance rates by 73%
  • Risky violations can more than double car insurance rates
  • The most expensive driving violations vary by state
  • Drivers with violations can lower their rates by staying safe
Finding 1

A single traffic ticket can raise insurance rates by 73%

The traffic violation with the single most significant impact on car insurance rates is a hit-and-run. Drivers charged with this can expect to pay a national average of 73% (or $1,083) more per year for car insurance.

However, insurance penalties for traffic violations don’t always align with what drivers may assume is the more dangerous driving behavior. Getting a ticket for driving too slowly can raise rates the same amount as getting a ticket for texting and driving. 

The chart below shows the national average rate increase after 28 common violations.

ViolationCost$ increase% increase
Leaving the scene of an accident (hit and run)$2,566$1,08373.0%
Racing$2,480$99767.2%
DUI$2,454$97165.5%
Refusal to submit to a chemical test$2,426$94363.6%
Driving with a suspended license$2,392$90961.3%
Reckless driving$2,389$90661.1%
At-fault accident greater than $2,000$2,153$67045.2%
At-fault accident $1,000-2,000$2,113$63042.5%
Open container$2,022$53936.3%
Operating a vehicle without permission$1,907$42428.6%
Passing school bus$1,904$42128.4%
At-fault accident less than $1,000$1,889$40627.4%
Improper passing$1,846$36324.5%
Following too closely$1,838$35523.9%
Speeding$1,836$35323.8%
Wrong way-wrong lane$1,823$34022.9%
Illegal turn$1,821$33822.8%
Failure to yield$1,819$33622.7%
Failure to stop at a red light$1,818$33522.6%
Driving too slowly$1,804$32121.6%
Texting while driving$1,804$32121.6%
Cell phone violation$1,800$31721.4%
Driving with expired registration$1,638$15510.5%
Failure to show documents$1,631$14810.0%
Seat belt$1,566$835.6%
Child safety restraint$1,555$724.9%
Not-at-fault accidents$1,550$674.5%
Driving without lights$1,543$604.0%

Drivers may also see insurance penalties for getting into accidents and filing claims for the damage. Who was at fault, the size of the claim and the terms of the driver’s insurance policy can all impact how much a claim raises rates.

ClaimCost$ increase% increase
Two comp claims$1,619$1369.2%
Two Med-PIP claims$1,555$724.9%
One comp claim$1,550$674.5%
One Med-PIP claim$1,492$90.6%

An insurance hike isn’t the only price drivers pay for a driving violation. They may also have to pay a fine and court costs.

Finding 2

Risky violations can more than double car insurance rates

This may seem obvious. The riskier the violation, the more the insurance policy will be because the driver is likelier to put themselves and others in danger more than other drivers on the road. 

The less risky violations won’t be a big hit to a driver’s budget. For example, driving without lights can cause an average increase of $60 per year, but a DUI could mean an average increase of $971 per year. 

Six violations can cause an average rate hike of 60% or more. Those violations are reckless driving, driving with a suspended license, refusal to submit to a chemical test, DUIs, racing and hit-and-runs.

RC_Costs.jpg

Drivers may also see rate increases after getting into not-at-fault accidents and filing claims. However, those increases typically aren’t as high. In some states, like California and Hawaii, not-at-fault accidents don’t increase a driver’s rate at all. The same goes for medical claims. In several states, filing one medical claim won’t increase drivers’ rates.

RC_Medical-states (1).jpg
Finding 3

The most expensive driving violations vary by state

Getting a ticket for a driving violation can raise someone’s car insurance rate, but the costs vary depending on which state they live in. 

For example, a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt in North Carolina can raise rates by 41.2% ($417), while the same ticket in Indiana won’t raise rates at all. 

The table below shows the most expensive violation(s) in each state and their average rate increases.

StateMost expensive violationAverage $ increaseAverage % increase
AlabamaHit and run$94773.0%
AlaskaHit and run$83960.1%
ArizonaHit and run$1,10177.8%
ArkansasDriving with a suspended license, racing, hit and run$95356.0%
CaliforniaReckless driving, hit and run$3,120171.2%
ColoradoHit and run$92454.4%
ConnecticutHit and run$1,36988.8%
District of ColumbiaHit and run$1,08976.3%
DelawareHit and run$1,29480.1%
FloridaHit and run$91039.2%
GeorgiaHit and run$1,39490.6%
HawaiiHit and run$1,680155.6%
IdahoDriving with a suspended license, hit and run$68854.8%
IllinoisDriving with a suspended license$70354.7%
IndianaDriving with a suspended license$73962.2%
IowaHit and run$76366.3%
KansasHit and run$75747.3%
KentuckyHit and run$1,15562.5%
LouisianaAt-fault accident $1,000-2,000, at-fault accident greater than $2,000$1,17851.1%
MaineRacing, hit and run$65159.2%
MarylandAt-fault accident $1,000-2,000, at-fault accident greater than $2,000$77153.7%
MassachusettsDriving with a suspended license$1,18390.8%
MichiganReckless driving, hit and run$2,966117.0%
MinnesotaHit and run$1,02273.1%
MississippiHit and run$1,08772.4%
MissouriAt-fault accident $1,000-2,000, at-fault accident greater than $2,000$82849.1%
MontanaRacing, hit and run$93560.4%
NebraskaReckless driving$53535.2%
NevadaDriving with a suspended license$1,17967.6%
New HampshireRacing$1,075111.9%
New JerseyRefusal to submit to a chemical test, DUI$1,07071.2%
New MexicoHit and run$92172.3%
New YorkHit and run$1,08664.1%
North CarolinaRacing$3,806376.5%
North DakotaDriving with a suspended license, hit and run$61946.8%
OhioRacing, hit and run$52356.5%
OklahomaHit and run$89257.7%
OregonHit and run$76357.3%
PennsylvaniaHit and run$85664.0%
Rhode IslandRacing, hit and run$1,991106.3%
South CarolinaHit and run$74550.8%
South DakotaHit and run$1,00769.9%
TennesseeDriving with a suspended license$85568.0%
TexasHit and run, reckless driving$90560.4%
UtahRacing, reckless driving, hit and run$77859.3%
VermontHit and run$97492.2%
VirginiaDriving with a suspended license$72971.1%
WashingtonHit and run$69957.8%
West VirginiaDriving with a suspended license, racing, hit and run$80056.0%
WisconsinDriving with a suspended license$63959.2%
WyomingHit and run$1,02670.3%

 

Finding 4

Drivers with violations can lower their rates by staying safe

If a driver has been stopped or ticketed by police for a driving violation, the best thing they can do to keep insurance rates low is not to offend again. But, that might be easier said than done. The Stanford Open Policing Project has collected over 200 million traffic stop records and search data from across the country. They’ve found that police officers generally stop Black drivers at higher rates than white drivers and stop Hispanic drivers at similar or lower rates than white drivers. Of course, whether a driver is stopped or ticketed isn’t their own choice — it’s up to the officer. 

With that in mind, drivers can do a few things to lower the cost of car insurance in both the short and long terms, even with a violation on their record. 

  • Ask their insurance company about discounts. Drivers could be eligible for several discounts for car features, school or employer affiliations, policy add-ons, customer loyalty, policy bundling, being a good student and more. Insurance companies should be able to drivers what they qualify for.
  • Shop around. Insurance companies compete for customers using rates. If a person’s policy is too expensive, another company might be able to get them a lower price because they may use a different formula to calculate rates than the current provider. People should also consider pay-by-mile insurance policies to save money if they aren’t frequent drivers. 
  • Take a defensive driving course. If a driver knows they take too many risks on the road, a defensive driving course may help them learn better driving behaviors and keep them safer in the long run. Plus, some insurance companies offer discounts for drivers who take these courses. Defensive driving courses don’t have to be a hit to someone’s budget. In Texas, drivers can find courses for just $25. Compared to the average $858 rate increase in the state for a reckless driving ticket, the course seems like a no-brainer.

It’s important drivers do what they can to keep themselves and others safe and avoid big rate hikes.  Traffic tickets aren’t “just tickets.” Well beyond the long-term cost of violations, unsafe driving behaviors really do put drivers and others at risk — that’s why insurance companies penalize them.

Between September and December 2020, The Zebra conducted a comprehensive auto insurance pricing analysis, comprising data from insurance rating platforms and public rate filings. The Zebra examined more than 83 million rates to explore pricing trends from 2011 to 2020 across 34,000 U.S. ZIP codes and Washington, D.C. Rates reflect a consistent base profile for the insured driver: a 30-year-old single male driving a 2016 Honda Accord EX with a good driving history and coverage limits of $50,000 bodily injury liability per person/$100,000 bodily injury liability per accident/$50,000 property damage liability per accident, with a $500 deductible for comprehensive and collision.

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The ZebraThe nation's leading independent insurance comparison site

The Zebra is an independent insurance advisor and quote comparison site with headquarters in Austin, Texas. Utilizing its real-time quote comparison tool, The Zebra partners with companies such as Allstate, Liberty Mutual, and Progressive to help consumers browse pricing, coverage, and service level for both home and auto insurance policies.