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How moving violations affect your auto insurance

Fact-checked with HomeInsurance.com

A clean driving record is a huge factor in the cost of auto insurance. When pricing an insurance policy, companies will look closely at the policyholder’s history on the road, and that history will have a significant impact on the price of coverage.

People with clean driving records will pay less for auto insurance than those with tickets, accidents and other driving offenses. If those driving incidents add up over time, it can be difficult to qualify for standard car insurance.

Thankfully, car accidents and other offenses don’t have a permanent effect on driving records. Insurance companies generally only look at the last three to five years when calculating the premium cost. Keep reading to find out how moving violations might affect your insurance.

What affects how long traffic violations are on your record?

Not all tickets and accidents affect your driving record, but certain offenses do have a lasting impact on your driving record and consequently, your insurance. Typically these offenses depend on type, severity, frequency, driving history and state procedures.

In terms of the type of infraction, a car accident is a more serious offense than a traffic ticket. Sometimes minor first offenses and non-moving violations won’t make it into state databases and will effectively be forgiven. 

Each state’s DMV has differing policies on how long driving offenses will remain on a driver’s record as well. In fact, these states don’t use driving points at all: Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington and Wyoming.

Effects of traffic violations

For many violations, the police officer issuing the citation will notify the DMV, which will add points to the driver’s license. Insurance providers have access to this information, and seeing it will usually result in the provider increasing the driver’s premium. Too many points in a short period of time can result in severe consequences such as being dropped from the insurance company or having a license suspended. 

Driver’s license points are added to personal driving histories by the DMV, while insurance points may be added by insurers. Insurers may assess drivers with insurance points without direction from the DMV. Accumulating too many points of either kind can get drivers in trouble with their insurer, potentially including legal trouble.

Car insurance rates often go up after a traffic violation. Most auto policies are active for a one-year term, and when it’s time to renew, the new rate will probably be higher if you’ve been in an accident or committed a significant violation. 

Every insurance company has rules and handles infractions differently so it’s hard to predict exactly what might happen. Some insurers offer accident forgiveness in certain circumstances, so the premium might not go up at all after the first incident.

Major violations like DUIs, hit-and-runs and reckless driving can be even more of a problem for policyholders. These types of violations can increase premiums substantially or even lead to the insurance provider dropping the policyholder completely. 

If an insurance company drops a driver, the driver might only be eligible to purchase high-risk auto insurance or SR-22 insurance, which is usually much more expensive than standard policies.

How long will a traffic violation stay on my record?

Although each DMV retains record of traffic violations for differing amounts of time, the existence of an incident doesn’t necessarily mean your rate will go up.

Insurance companies usually only look at the last three to five years of a driving record, and some states have laws against insurers raising prices on policies for accidents that are older than a few years.

Here’s how long some of the most common violations will stay on your record:

Violation duration on record

ViolationTime on driving record
WarningNo record
Speeding ticket2-3 years
Reckless driving10 years
DUI5-10 years

The takeaway:

  • Even minor traffic violations can cause the cost of insurance coverage to rise.
  • Traffic violations usually only affect insurance rates for three to five years, although some smaller violations are forgiven by insurers the first time.
  • In states using point systems, traffic incidents cause drivers to gain points. Too many violations can cause drivers to be dropped from their auto insurance or have their license suspended.

Learning how moving violations affect your car insurance can help motivate you to stay safe, and keeping a clean driving record is the best way to qualify for low insurance rates. Drivers with a good history behind the wheel have much less to worry about when it comes to insurance providers raising their rates.

When drivers begin to accumulate traffic violations, the driver’s insurance rate will increase because the insurer is taking on more risk. After too many traffic violations, the only option a driver might have is SR-22 insurance.

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