Are you paying too much for car insurance? The problem might be those speeding tickets and accidents still on your driving record.
Insurance companies charge higher premiums for drivers they deem to be risky. The higher premiums provide them with protection for insuring drivers more likely to make claims. And motorists who drive too fast or who have had accidents in the past are more likely to make future claims.
If your driving record is spotted with violations, you'll pay higher rates. But there is some positive news: You might be able to clear your driving record of some, if not all, violations.
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Why fight a speeding ticket? Violations hang on
A speeding ticket will follow you. Depending on the state in which you live, a speeding ticket will remain on your record for two years or longer. For instance, in Michigan, a speeding ticket will remain on your driving record for a minimum of seven years. In Texas, speeding tickets remain on your record for a minimum of three years.
Insurance companies, though, are mostly concerned with more recent violations. A speeding ticket that is 7 years old, might no longer cause your rates to rise. It varies by company, but most insurers will focus only on tickets that you received during the past three to five years.
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Some violations, though, will cause you more problems. A DUI will remain on your record for a far longer time. In Michigan, again, driving offenses involving alcohol and controlled substances will remain on your record for life. The same holds true in Illinois. In California, a DUI conviction remains on your driving record for 10 years.
How much your insurance goes up depends on your insurer. Some insurance companies will hit you with a minor increase after one ticket. Others won't increase your rates until you receive more than one ticket in a year.
How to clean your driving record
If you're worried that your vehicular mistakes might cost you serious money, know that there are ways to clean your spotty driving record.
First, resolve to fight tickets if you think they are questionable. This will require a court visit, but getting a violation dropped could you save you from a rate increase.
Make sure, though, that the violations you are fighting really are questionable. If you were driving 75 miles-an-hour in a school zone, the odds are high that you won't be able to successfully fight that ticket.
When it's time to fight, mention mitigating circumstances. If you were rushing to the hospital because your spouse was having emergency surgery, for instance, a judge might give you a break.
Many motorists simply pay their tickets through the mail. Paying, though, means that you are admitting your guilt. If you want that ticket off your record, don't pay it without first contesting it.
Take a driver safety course
Some states allow motorists to erase moving violations from their driving records by taking an authorized driver safety course -- often referred to as defensive-driving course. These courses vary in length and subject matter. Courses approved by the Georgia Department of Driver Services, for instance, last six hours and focus on safe-driving attitudes and behaviors. Motorists who complete a course from a registered provider can reduce the number of points filed against their state driver's license by as many as seven once every five years.
Be careful, though, when signing up for a course. If the course you take isn't authorized by your state, you won't be able to remove any violations from your record by completing it. Check your state's department of motor vehicles website to determine which courses are authorized by your state.
Make safe driving a priority
Depending on where you live, you might be able to request that your state expunge a moving violation from your driving record before it would normally fall off your record. But you will have to meet certain requirements first. One is that you must have a clean driving record -- no speeding tickets, DUI arrests, blown red lights or other moving violations -- for a certain amount of time, often three years.
Be aware, though, that some states never let you expunge a moving violation early. Your best bet is to contact your state's department of motor vehicles and maintain a violation-free driving record.
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Wondering how traffic moving violations affect insurance rates? Find out now.
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