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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.

Most states use a point system to track driving history. When a violation occurs, points are removed from a license, which can mean that getting car insurance will be much more expensive for the driver. Learn how moving violations affect your insurance.

How long does a ticket stay on your insurance?

Traffic tickets are one of the things insurance companies will look for when they approve a new auto insurance policy. In the eyes of the insurer, people with more tickets are considered a higher risk, so the policy will reflect that risk with a higher cost.

However, each insurance carrier handles tickets differently, and some companies may only go back a couple years in the driving history to determine the rate. When signing up for a new policy, check with the insurer to see what its policy is on traffic tickets.

How long does an accident stay on your insurance?

A car accident is a more serious offense than a traffic ticket, and getting in an accident could have a profound effect on the price and availability of auto insurance.

Every state’s DMV has policies on how long driving offenses will remain on a driver’s record. However, even if the DMV has a record of the accident, it might not affect the price of insurance. 

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. 

After getting in a car accident, the cost of auto insurance for the driver will probably increase. Most auto policies are active for a one-year term. When the term is up and it’s time to renew, the renewal rate will probably be higher if the policyholder was in an accident or had a claim filed against them.

Even if the policyholder wasn’t at fault in the accident, the cost of insurance may still go up. This might seem unfair, but it’s standard practice in the auto insurance industry. There are a few states, such as California, where laws prevent this practice.

An accident won’t affect the price of an auto insurance policy forever. After a few years without incident, the policy cost should drop. Having a clean driving record prior to an accident can minimize rate increases after the accident.

Understanding insurance points

Insurance points are marks against a driving record. After an accident or other driving incident, points may be added to a policyholder’s history. These points will cause the cost of auto insurance to rise because they signify that the policyholder is a greater risk to insure. 

Insurance points are not necessarily the same as driver’s license points. Driver’s license points are handled exclusively by state DMVs. 

How do insurance points work?

Most traffic incidents have the ability to affect a policyholder’s insurance points. If too many  points accumulate on the policyholder’s record, the provider might decline to offer insurance to the driver.

 A few important notes on insurance points:

  • Not all tickets and accidents affect a driving record. Sometimes minor first offenses and non-moving violations will fail to translate as insurance points. 
  • Not all states use insurance points. In fact, some states don’t use driving points at all. Those states are Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington and Wyoming.
  • Some insurance providers allow policyholders to remove insurance points from their record by attending approved driving courses. Check with the insurer for specific details. 

Driver’s license points vs. insurance points

Although closely related, driver’s license points and insurance points have a few key differences. Understanding the difference between the two could be vital.

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. People who rack up enough driver’s license points could also face legal trouble.

How do driving violations increase your auto insurance rates?

After a driving violation, the police officer issuing the violation will notify the DMV, which will add points to the driver’s license. Insurance providers have access to this information, and it will usually result in the provider increasing the driver’s premium. 

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

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

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

What about SR-22 insurance?

An SR-22 certification is a form that verifies a person is carrying at least the minimum amount of insurance required by the state. An SR-22 form certifies financial responsibility, but it is not insurance by itself. 

When drivers rack up too many infractions on their personal history, they may be required by a court or state to get insurance with a SR-22 certification.

SR-22 insurance is usually the last resort for drivers. An insurance company may file an SR-22 as proof of financial responsibility for drivers with excessive traffic incidents.

The takeaway

Moving violations lead to higher auto insurance rates.

  • Even minor traffic violations can cause the cost of coverage to rise.
  • Traffic violations usually only affect insurance rates for three to five years.
  • 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.

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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