A moving violation ticket brings many hassles, but none is more severe than the effect it can have on your auto insurance premium.
For the third year in a row, insuranceQuotes commissioned a Quadrant Information Services study that found auto insurance rates can climb by as much as 94 percent on average after a single moving violation.
The study analyzed the average national premium increase for one moving violation in several categories such as driving under the influence, speeding and failure to yield.
As in previous years, the study found that premium increases can greatly vary between different types of violations and among different states.
For instance, one conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) — also known as driving while intoxicated or DWI — will result in a national average rate increase of 94 percent (up from 92 percent in 2015). However, failing to signal only results in a spike of 19 percent.
According to Mike Barry, spokesman for the nonprofit Insurance Information Institute, this study illustrates how insurers use driving infractions to determine the potential riskiness of individual drivers.
"Insurers base their rates on experience, so the violations that cause premiums to jump the most are the ones that, over the years, insurers have found are strong indicators that the driver is likely to have an accident in the future," Barry says. "Seen that way, this study makes a lot of sense."
Insurance premium increases by traffic moving violation
Here are the national average premium increases for the five most expensive violations:
1. DUI/DWI: 94 percent
2. Reckless driving: 85 percent
3. Speeding by 31 mph or more: 29 percent
4. Speeding by 16 to 30 mph: 28 percent
5. Careless driving: 27 percent
According to Eli Lehrer, president of the nonprofit research group the R Street Institute, it's no surprise certain moving violations result in bigger premium increases than others — and that's because insurers have very specific data that show certain types of moving violations are more indicative of future risk.
"The bottom line is that the riskier a driver is, the more expensive he or she is to insure," says Lehrer. "And, in general, the moving violations that result in larger premium increases correlate more closely with future claims behavior."
For instance, insurance companies know that a reckless driving ticket is a stronger indicator of future risk than, say, speeding 5 mph over the limit.
Moving violations affect rates depending on your state
In addition to the type of moving violation you incur, the average premium increase for a single ticket will vary depending on the state where you live. Here are some examples of how premium spikes are affected by state and violation:
Highest and lowest premium hikes after a DUI:
North Carolina: 334 percent increase
Maryland: 15 percent increase
Highest and lowest premium hikes after a reckless driving violation:
Hawaii: 291 percent increase
Louisiana: 29 percent increase
Highest and lowest premium hikes after a speeding violation of more than 30 mph:
Illinois: 99 percent increase
These notable disparities are based on the way each state regulates auto insurance companies and the factors they can use to increase premiums, according to Dan Weedin, a Seattle-based insurance and risk management consultant.
"It's all up to how individual state insurance commissioners allow each company to assess rates," Weedin says.
According to Doug Heller, an independent consumer advocate with the Consumer Federation of America, some states can use "a whole host of rating factors that aren't in any way related to how someone drives." For instance, many states allow insurers to use credit scores, occupation and marital status as rating factors. Other states, however, are more prohibitive in their approach to rate changes, which is why there's such a consistently stark difference between outliers like California and Hawaii compared with the rest of the country.
In California, for instance, someone's driving safety record must be the primary factor in determining what he'll pay for insurance (it's the same in Hawaii). As a result, any blemishes on a driving record — like a DUI or reckless driving violation — will impact the premium more significantly than in less tightly regulated states like Illinois or Vermont, where insurers can use additional factors, like a driver's credit score, to determine premiums.
"States at the extreme ends of the spectrum are all states that limit the way insurers can use data," Lehrer says.
How to save money after a moving violation
No moving violation stays on your driving record forever. Most first-time infractions will impact your premium for between three and five years, but precisely how long your finances are burdened depends on the severity of the violation and laws in your state. Follow these tips to potentially ease an increased premium.
1. Seek forgiveness. Auto insurers will typically be somewhat forgiving of minor moving violations like failure to stop or failure to signal. They may offer first-time moving violation forgiveness and not increase your premium. Additionally, many states offer driving classes to help individuals remove one or two moving violations from their records.
2. Make a deal. According to Lehrer, most states offer plea bargains at traffic court that can help drivers expunge points from their record and therefore avoid an increase in annual premium, provided the violation isn't too severe.
According to Lehrer, going to court about a minor traffic violation can get you a plea bargain to some other lesser offense — unless you've been charged with a DUI or reckless driving. The court may also let you take a course on safe driving.
3. Shop around. Shopping for a new car insurance policy after receiving a moving violation may also be a good idea, but you won't be able to hide your record.
According to Barry, all insurers are different, so there's a chance you could find a new policy that's cheaper than the one you have, even if you've got a moving violation. Or you might simply have to wait it out for three to five years before your premium falls to previolation levels.
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insuranceQuotes and Quadrant Information Services calculated the impacts of 17 common moving violations in all 50 states (and Washington, D.C.) using data from the largest carriers (representing 60-70% of market share) in each state/district.
Averages are based on a 45-year-old married, employed female with a clean driving record driving a 2013 sedan. The hypothetical driver has a bachelor’s degree, an excellent credit score, no lapses in coverage and the following limits: $100,000/$300,000 (bodily injury), $100,000 (property damage), $100,000/$300,000 (UI/UIM), $10,000 (PIP) and a $500 deductible.
See also: Raise your car deductible and save big