How Points on your Driver's License Affect Your Auto Insurance Premiums
You know that sinking feeling you get when a cop car pulls up behind you and flashes its lights, and the officer broadcasts (so passersby can hear) that you should pull over? If you do, you are probably one of the millions who have been ticketed for a moving violation. In most states, moving violations, like running a stop sign, running a red light, speeding, illegal u-turns, unsafe lane changes, etc., will earn you points. These aren’t the kind of points you get to trade in for goods and services. If these add up in a short period of time, these are the kind that can cost you more money for your insurance and possibly cause you to lose your driving privileges.
While the details vary from state to state, most point systems typically work in one of two ways:
• State system 1: Each ordinary moving violation counts as a single point, but two points are assessed for speed violations that are far in excess of the speed limit. A license is suspended when a driver receives four points in a year, six in two years, or eight in three years.
• State system 2: Two points are assessed for minor violations such as an illegal turn or slightly exceeding the speed limit. Three, four or five points are assigned for more serious violations, such as running a stop sign or a red light. A license is suspended if a driver gets 12 points over three years.
Some states also assess points for accidents if you are at fault.
If you get a ticket for a moving violation, check the vehicle code violation number with which you are charged—it should be written on the face of your ticket. Then call your department of motor vehicles and ask three questions:
1. Will the violation add points to your record?
2. How many points do you currently have on your record? (That might require a trip down there to get a printout.)
3. How many points does it take to have your license suspended?
Most insurance companies regularly review your record and may raise your premium if you get a certain number of points. Some states, such as California, do not allow insurance companies to raise your premiums for getting only one point on your record. In other states, drivers can be assessed two different types of points, driver’s license and insurance points. Call your insurance company to find out their policies. Depending on the laws in your state and your insurance company’s policies, your insurer will likely allow one moving violation every three to five years. Anything more than that and your premiums increase. Accidents will raise your premiums, as well, if you were at fault. The rates may go up as much as twenty to thirty percent depending on the severity of the accident or the number of points for your moving violation.
How to Avoid or Remove the Points
• Contest the ticket
One way to avoid moving violation points, (something you’ll want to do, especially if you are getting close to having your licensed snatched), is by contesting the ticket. (You might want to consult the national edition of Nolo’s Beat Your Ticket for some potentially winning strategies.) But there is another way.
• Traffic School
If you pay your ticket and go to traffic school, the points from the traffic offense will not go on your record. While traffic school may involve spending up to eight hours in a classroom listening to a lecture and watching films about gory accidents, it can be well worth it to avoid the increased insurance premiums. It may seem like an inconvenience, but it is a path that provides more certainty than contesting your ticket in court. How often you can attend traffic school varies by jurisdiction. Some allow attendance once a year; others are stricter at once every eighteen to twenty-four months. If you were ticketed for driving at least fifteen miles per hour over the posted speed limit, local law may prevent you from attending traffic school at all.
Some states, such as California, allow you to complete online traffic school, but others require you to sign up through a court clerk or even to appear before a judge. When you’ve completed the class, you receive a certificate to prove you’ve taken it. Some traffic schools go out of their way to attract customers by injecting humor into their curriculum. You get the same basic information, but with a twist, to make the day go a little faster.
• Defensive Driving Classes
In some areas, you can take defensive driving or other types of drivers’ education classes to have points removed from your license once they are on there. Check with your state’s department of motor vehicles for your options.
No insurance company wants to insure a bad risk and one of the strong indicators of that risk is whether or not the insured has been convicted of a number of moving violations because these bad habits may lead to accidents. Accidents create claims, which cost the insurance company money. Your best bet to keep your insurance rates down, of course, is to avoid getting moving violations at all. No one is perfect and insurance companies do understand this, but you must understand that they will ask you to pay for your transgressions.
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