Four sure-fire ways to get stopped by a cop
Listen up, lead foot. You, too, behind-the-wheel cellphone fanatic.
Across the country, state and local cops are looking to pull you over after noticing any number of tell-tale signs that you’re being bad behind the wheel. Many of those roadway no-no’s can result in you being slapped with a traffic ticket — and being hit with higher auto insurance premiums.
“In essence, doing anything that draws undue attention or that deviates from normal traffic flow is going to create a higher profile that police watch for,” says Gary Biller, executive director of the National Motorists Association.
It’s not unusual for an auto insurance premium to rise 10 percent to 20 percent after a first-time offense goes on your driving record, Biller says.
|It’s not unusual for an auto insurance premium to rise 10 percent to 20 percent after a first-time offense goes on your driving record.|
“Usually, the increase is couched in terms of additional surcharges or the withdrawal of a ‘good driver’ discount,” he says. “The increase lasts for three to five years, and is greatly magnified if there is a second offense during that period.”
Here are four ways to attract unwanted attention from a cop:
• Driving drunk – The Florida-based National Safety Commission says that just paying the ticket for a DUI offense can range from $500 to $2,000, depending on your blood-alcohol level and the state where you live. Expect your insurance to go up, too. A DUI brands you as a high-risk driver with insurance companies. Fair or unfair, today’s DUI could mean tomorrow’s auto insurance claim.
• Speeding – If you’re stopped for speeding in Florida, prepare to dig deep. The state penalizes lead-foot drivers with ticket fees ranging from $141 to $441, the National Safety Commission says. It could be worse. States like Georgia have added a $200 penalty for speeders who go 10 miles per hour beyond the speed limit. Speeding also labels you as a risky driver – and certainly will lead to higher insurance costs. Be especially carefully about speeding in a school zone, where traffic penalties often are higher.
• Running a red light or stop sign – If you run a red light or a stop sign, expect to pay far more than $100 just for costs related to the traffic ticket. The National Safety Commission says Florida drivers get dinged anywhere from $125 to $151 for such an offense. Running a red light in Texas can cost $175 to $275 or more. Running a red light or stop sign will up your insurance premiums in most states, too. Frequent moving violations also can bump up your insurance — 20 percent and beyond for second and third offenses.
• Making improper lane changes – Zigging and zagging between lanes may give you that Richard Petty buzz, but it’s also one of the easiest ways to get pulled over by a police officer.
Biller, the National Motorists Association director, says other activities that can catch a cop’s eye include:
• Driving considerably slower than other cars.
• Holding a cellphone to your ear. In some areas, drivers are prohibited from talking on a cellphone while driving.
• Having a missing license plate.
• Hiding behind excessive window tinting.
• Having a broken headlight or malfunctioning taillight.
• Plastering your car with offensive stickers.
“Speeding, following too closely and driving while intoxicated are some of the big issues,” says Tod Burke, a professor of criminal justice at Radford University in Radford, Va., and a former Maryland police officer. “When I saw any of those violations as a police officer, it would make me wild. I always walked up to the car in a ‘What were you thinking?’ mode.”
Bad timing comes into play as much as bad driving habits. “The surest way to get arrested driving is to do something stupid in front of a police officer,” Burke says.
In California, the most common moving violations don’t change much.
“Speeding is a big one,” says Jaime Coffee, a spokeswoman for the California Highway Patrol. “We see over 1 million violations for speeding every year. That’s a violation that would definitely impact your auto insurance.”
Coffee says not wearing a seat belt, following too closely and texting are some of the other ways to get in the fast lane toward a ticket. Texting violations handed out by the California Highway Patrol rose from 1,700 in 2009 to 3,000 in 2010, according to Coffee.
“Anything you do on the roads that attracts attention increases the odds of an arrest,” Burke says. “For example, if you’re the lead car in speeding traffic, it’s easy to pick you out of a crowd. In that case, you’re begging to be stopped.”