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How Does a Traffic Violation Affect Car Insurance Quotes?

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Traffic violations, besides coming with a hefty fine or legal fee, also end up costing you on your car insurance quotes. We have already explored how DUIs, credit score, and age affect car insurance rates, and while a traffic violation is not as severe as a DUI, it can still end up being expensive. Below we'll discuss and show how three different common violations influence your yearly premiums.

How Much a Traffic Violation Can Affect Your Rates

Using the standard profile of a 30 year old single male who drives a 2014 Toyota Corolla, we explored how his rates would change across three different violations. The common traffic violations we analyzed included speeding, reckless driving, and failure to observe a sign/signal. To compare rates we averaged his sample car insurance quotes from Massachusetts, Missouri and Minneapolis, and graphed the results below. 

How Different Violations Affect Your Car Insurance Rates

In the graph, you can see how much each violation adds to a premium. For speeding and failure to observe a signal, we saw an increase of 33 cents for every dollar. Both violations pale in comparison however to a reckless driving charge, which sees the average costumer paying an extra $1.19 for every dollar spent. Meaning, if your annual premiums typically cost you $1,000 a year, it would increase to $1,333 with a speeding ticket or a failure to observe a light, and more than double to $2,190 for a reckless driving charge.

Other Factors that Influence Auto Insurance Rates After a Traffic Violation

There are several factors that influence how a violation affects your quote. By looking into how GEICO calculates auto insurance quotes in Alabama, we gained a better understanding of why rates rise the way they do. For one, a speeding and failure to observe violation are considered “minor offenses”, while reckless driving is considered a major offense and thus weighs heavier on your rates. Here is what we found: 

Age: When searching for rates, we used the profile of a 30 year old. As it turns out however, your age will influence how severely you are punished for a violation. Drivers aged 18 to 22 get penalized a lot more than drivers aged 23 to 73, while 23 to 73 year olds will pay more than drivers over the age of 74. This is only the case however for speeding, failure to observe, and other minor violations. Reckless driving, a major violation, has an overall heavier penalty and only affects drivers younger than 18 the most. Below you can see how Bodily Injury Liability Premiums increase with age and across the three violations.

AgeNone Speeding Failure to Observe Reckless Driving 
18 1.000x 1.098x 1.098x 1.800x
30 1.000x 1.093x 1.093x 1.797x
74 1.000x 1.005x 1.005x 1.797x

Again, speeding and a failure to observe are factored the same, since they are considered minor violations and therefore only have a slight increase on your rates. That comes out to a maximum of an extra 9.8 cents per dollar for eighteen year olds. When it comes to 74 year olds, on the other hand, the effect is hardly noticeable with only a half-cent increase per dollar. Get caught driving recklessly by the cops though, and you can expect to see about an extra 80 cents per dollar spent on your premium.

When You're Caught, and How Many Times: The date of your last traffic violation is also an important factor. In fact, a 30 year old who had one minor violation 35 months before applying for insurance would only need to pay 0.7 cents more per dollar, while the same person with a violation 11 months prior would see their Collision Insurance premium rise by 9.8 cents for every dollar. Even more influential on your rates, however, is the number of violations you commit. Car insurance quotes for someone with four violations in 12 months are more than twice as expensive than someone who had only one citation in the same time period. Below you can see how rates change for a 30 year old driver across time and number of violations. 

Number of Minor Offenses 11 months 24 months 35 months 
0 1.000x 1.000x 1.000x
1 1.098x 1.050x 1.007x
2 1.499x 1.379x 1.216x
3 1.623x 1.493x 1.317x
4 1.688x 1.552x 1.369x
5+ 2.115x 1.945x 1.716x

The worst thing you can do for your car insurance rates is accruing several violations in a small amount of time. Even if you were just going 10 miles over the speed limit, if you do that five times in 11 months, your rates will more than double.

Insurance Company: Every company has a different way of calculating premiums. Above we explored GEICO auto insurance in Alabama, but other major insurance companies will have a different weighing system. In our quote analysis, we looked at rates from Allstate, Farmers and Nationwide car insurance. Here are how they compare relative to each other:

Insurance CompanyNo ViolationSpeeding/Failure to Observe Reckless Driving 
Farmers  1.000x 1.236x 1.585x
Allstate  1.000x 1.379x 1.685x
Nationwide  1.000x 1.335x 3.061x

Interestingly, we find Allstate to penalize the most for a minor violation, but Nationwide penalizing the heaviest for a major violation. This result is consistent with results we found when we analyzed the impact of a DUI on rates. This isn't to say that, for example, Farmers is the best insurance company to go to when you have one minor infraction. These are just the relative differences compared to the rate you were getting originally, before violations. Where it gets tricky is whether your base rate -- with no violation -- is better at Farmers, Allstate, or Nationwide. That's why it's always in your best interest to compare at least three quotes to find the most affordable rates for your coverage.

Final Thoughts

A traffic violation could have a small, or huge affect on your auto insurance rates. If you do find yourself on the other end of a ticket, the best thing to do is heed extreme caution to avoid getting another one. The more violations you accrue, the more expensive your rates will become. If you cannot trust yourself to never get a ticket, perhaps choosing a company that doesn't penalize violations would be a smart way to avoid expenses in the future. At the end of the day however, having a clean driving record is the most effective way of keeping auto insurance premiums low. 

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