Research

[Study] A single driving violation can increase your insurance rate up to 70%

Traffic tickets could double your insurance rate and ruin your budget, according to new research.

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In 2021, more people were back on the road, and it appears more people were behaving badly. This trend is continuing into 2022 — and as seen in a new study by The Zebra — it’s having a big affect on their car insurance rates.

The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 42,915 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2021. That was a 10.5% increase from 2020 — the highest jump they’ve ever recorded. This makes sense given there was also a significant increase in miles driven during 2021, as much of the country was shut down then. In 2022, the trend continues. For example, in March of 2022 the estimated number of motor vehicle deaths was up 3% compared to 2021 (and up 25% from 2020).

What’s causing these numbers to rise? Behavioral research by the NHTSA shows that speeding and traveling without a seat bell both remain higher than before the pandemic. They believe people relaxed habits during the lower-traffic periods of lockdown, and have continued these reckless driving habits even as traffic has picked back up. Speeding is a factor in approximately a third of all traffic-related fatalities.

Beyond the obvious issues of making the roadways more unsafe for themselves and other drivers, traffic violations will also cause your 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 2% to a whopping 70% ($31-$1,077) 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
  • High-risk violations can more than double car insurance rates
  • Lower-risk violations are increasing the amount they raise rates
  • The most expensive driving violations vary by state
  • Drivers with violations can lower their rates by staying safe

High-risk violations can more than double car insurance rates

There are four violations that can raise your premiums more than 60% from a single ticket. Naturally, these include violations related to high-risk driving behavior including racing, driving while intoxicated and refusal to submit to a chemical test. 

However, 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 an average of 70% (or $1,077) more per year for car insurance.

com-430-reckless-driving-costs-2022

 

The inherent risk and potential for insurable losses seems obvious when it comes to high-risk driving behaviors. But insurance penalties for traffic violations don’t always align with what drivers may assume is the more dangerous driving behavior. For example, getting a ticket for driving too slowly can raise rates the same amount as getting a ticket for texting and driving. 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.

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

Accident/Violation

Cost

$ Increase

% Increase

Leaving scene of an accident (hit and run)

$2,606

$1,077

70%

Racing

$2,530

$1,001

65%

DUI

$2,475

$946

62%

Refusal to submit to a chemical test

$2,456

$927

61%

Reckless driving

$2,417

$888

58%

Driving with a suspended license

$2,415

$886

58%

At-fault accident greater than $2000

$2,194

$665

43%

At-fault accident $1000-$2000

$2,156

$627

41%

Open container

$2,059

$530

35%

Operating a vehicle without permission

$1,938

$409

27%

Passing school bus

$1,937

$408

27%

At-fault accident less than $1000

$1,921

$392

26%

Improper passing

$1,879

$350

23%

Following too closely

$1,873

$344

23%

Speeding

$1,869

$340

22%

Wrong way wrong lane

$1,865

$336

22%

Illegal turn

$1,855

$326

21%

Failure to yield

$1,855

$326

21%

Failure to stop at a red light

$1,854

$325

21%

Texting while driving

$1,851

$322

21%

Cell phone violation

$1,849

$320

21%

Driving too slowly

$1,841

$312

20%

Driving with expired registration

$1,805

$276

18%

Failure to show documents

$1,735

$206

13%

Child safety restraint

$1,709

$180

12%

Driving without lights

$1,708

$179

5%

Seat belt

$1,690

$161

11%

Not-at-fault accidents

$1,569

$40

3%

 

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.

 

 

Claim

Cost

$ Increase

% Increase

Two comp claims

$1,646

$117

8%

Two Med-PIP claims

$1,560

$31

2%

One comp claim

$1,570

$41

3%

 

 

What are comp and Med-PIP claims?

As seen in the chart, claims can raise your insurance even if you're not at fault. Here's a quick run down of what the different claims in the chart are.

Comp claim: A comprehensive claim is designed to cover damage outside the driver’s control (theft, vandalism, weather damage, etc.)

Med-PIP claim: Medical pay and personal injury protection are claims that cover damages to you or your passengers (both medical and things like lost wages) when injured in a crash.

Lower-risk violations are increasing the amount they raise rates

While the higher-risk violations are the ones that will really cause rates to skyrocket, the amount they will increase your insurance premiums actually decreased slightly from previous years. In our 2021 violations report, a hit-and-run increased rates an average of 73%, while this year it’s 70%. Similarly, a DUI increased rates by an average of 62% this year, compared to 65% the previous year.

We found the reverse to be true for smaller offenses, which are on the upward trajectory for how much they impact rates. For example, driving with children not in a proper safety restraint is a violation that caused a 4-5% increase in rates in the last few years, but this year that increase leapt up to 12%. Other smaller offenses that saw a big increase this year include: driving without lights, driving without a seatbelt and driving with expired registration. 

Low-risk violations over the last 5 years

 

In some cases this could reflect the changing laws, as all states now have laws around cell phone usage and texting while driving. Auto insurance premiums will increase due to these violations in every state, while in previous years this wasn’t the case.

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 California can raise rates by 29% ($520), while the same ticket in Maine won’t raise rates at all. 

The table below shows the most expensive violation(s) in each state and their average rate increases. You’ll note that hit-and-runs are the most expensive violation in 31 states, far more than any other violation.

State

Most expensive violation

Average $ increase

Average % increase

Alabama

Hit and run

$888

64%

Alaska

Hit and run

$826

63%

Arizona

Hit and run

$1,065

74%

Arkansas

Racing

$969

55%

California

Driving with a suspended license

$2,975

165%

Colorado

Hit and run

$901

54%

Connecticut

Hit and run

$1,375

89%

District of Columbia

Hit and run

$1,224

84%

Delaware

Hit and run

$1,403

83%

Florida

Hit and run

$1,025

41%

Georgia

Hit and run

$1,408

89%

Hawaii

Hit and run

$1,737

155%

Idaho

Driving with a suspended license

$741

55%

Illinois

Driving with a suspended license

$796

57%

Indiana

Driving with a suspended license

$762

61%

Iowa

Hit and run

$797

65%

Kansas

Hit and run

$848

52%

Kentucky

Hit and run

$1,251

68%

Louisiana

Open container

$1,276

54%

Maine

Hit and run

$584

56%

Maryland

Hit and run

$914

68%

Massachusetts

Driving with a suspended license

$1,200

90%

Michigan

Hit and run & reckless driving

$3,490

136%

Minnesota

Hit and run

$1,144

87%

Mississippi

Hit and run

$1,211

75%

Missouri

At-fault accident

$915

53%

Montana

Racing & hit and run

$877

60%

Nebraska

Reckless driving

$771

49%

Nevada

Driving with a suspended license

$1,207

65%

New Hampshire

Hit and run

$643

64%

New Jersey

Driving with a suspended license

$1,053

64%

New Mexico

Hit and run

$1,002

74%

New York

Hit and run

$1,170

74%

North Carolina

Racing

$3,963

375%

North Dakota

Driving with a suspended license

$623

47%

Ohio

Hit and run

$585

57%

Oklahoma

Hit and run

$913

57%

Oregon

Hit and run

$784

59%

Pennsylvania

Hit and run

$862

69%

Rhode Island

Hit and run

$1,953

94%

South Carolina

Hit and run

$804

52%

South Dakota

Hit and run

$1,148

73%

Tennessee

Driving with a suspended license

$868

69%

Texas

Reckless driving

$871

55%

Utah

Racing

$861

61%

Vermont

Hit and run

$1,002

87%

Virginia

Driving with a suspended license

$722

66%

Washington

Hit and run

$750

59%

West Virginia

Driving with a suspended license

$861

58%

Wisconsin

Driving with a suspended license

$740

62%

Wyoming

Hit and run

$1,104

71%

 

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 tell 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.

Methodology

Between September 2021 and January 2022, 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 2022 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 driver with a 2017 Honda Accord EX.

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