Just got a traffic ticket? Don’t worry, it won’t affect your car insurance forever
Say you just got a ticket for running a red light, or speeding above the posted speed limit, or driving without insurance or any other type of violation that can earn you a ticket. You’re probably worried about both the short-term hassle of dealing with the ticket and the long-term repercussions for your driving record.
The bad news is that a ticket can follow you and your driving for life, unless you successfully fight it or get your record expunged. The good news is that that might not actually matter that much, at least after enough years have passed.
In many instances, tickets for driving violations have immediate implications. Once you get a ticket, depending on where you live and what the violation was, you’ll likely have to pay a fine, either online, by mail, or in person. You may also have to show up for traffic court, or attend traffic school or a defensive driving course. And, depending on the severity of the violation, you may get points on your license or see increased insurance rates, which gets into some of the longer-term consequences of your ticket.
Different types of driving records exist, and they cover different spans of time, but, in order for someone else to your driving record, they have to get your express written permission. Some versions of your driving record show just the past several years while others can show violations from decades ago.
The specifics vary state to state, but in New York State for example, a “lifetime” driving record shows every violation you’ve racked up over your entire driving history while a standard driving record abstract only shows more recent violations.
But, in Texas, there are more than five types of driving records available; some show all crashes and violations and some just show moving violations that happened within the past several years.
And in Colorado, driving records show the past seven years or more of your driving history. Contact your state’s DMV to learn more about the specifics of driving records where you live.
Many states also use a points system for violations. Some traffic tickets, or a certain number of tickets in a short amount of time, can earn you penalty points from your state’s DMV. And too many points can lead to your license being suspended, or even revoked.
You likely already know that your driving record is part of what determines your auto insurance premiums, or the rate you pay monthly, semiannually, or annually to keep your policy in-force.
Your insurance carrier will typically look at your motor vehicle report, or MVR, when you apply for a policy and they’ll take your record into account when renewing an existing policy.
An MVR includes information like your name, date of birth, height, and, yes, driving violations and tickets. But insurance carriers generally only care about the past several years when they’re determining how much of a risk you’ll be as a driver. So again, a recent ticket may affect your rates, but a ticket from decades ago might not raise any red flags with your insurer.
That said, the severity of the violation matters too. A DUI will almost certainly raise your rates more than a single speeding ticket, and sometimes your insurer may forgive a moving violation if you have an otherwise clean driving record.
Parking tickets are a different animal altogether — they probably won’t have any bearing on your insurance rates or your license, because they don’t necessarily signal to carriers that you’re a riskier driver to insure. You should still pay them though — the more you ignore a parking ticket, the more it will cost you.
If you’ve received a traffic ticket that you don’t think was warranted, you have options. In many cases, your physical ticket will include instructions for fighting the ticket in court. You’ll likely have to plead not guilty to the violation, often by checking a box on your ticket and mailing it in to an address provided. Depending on your state, you may be able to do this online.
Then you’ll likely be given a date to appear in traffic court. If you’re late responding with a plea or if you skip your hearing date, you’ll risk serious consequences, like having your license suspended.
There are traffic ticket lawyers who can help you fight a ticket, but hiring a lawyer can be a lot pricier than just paying the ticket fine. For drivers at risk of losing their license, hiring a lawyer can be a smart choice, but first-time offenders likely don’t need professional legal help. If you’re successful in fighting the ticket, it won’t show up on your record and you won’t have to pay the ticket fine.
Anna Swartz is a Managing Editor at Policygenius, where she has been since 2018. An expert in home, auto and renters insurance, she loves making tough concepts easy to understand and helping readers feel confident about their insurance options. Before joining Policygenius, she was a senior staff writer at Mic. Her work has appeared in The Dodo, AOL, HuffPost, Salon and Heeb.
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