Traffic violations are frustrating because they are almost always an avoidable expense. How much of an expense varies. It’s almost impossible to determine the exact cost of any traffic violation. But it is clear that there are certain violations that will be more expensive than others. The cost of each violation is determined by a combination of three separate factors:
1. Fines and penalties. These are imposed by the local jurisdictions as a penalty for traffic violations. They can range from $50 for missing paperwork, up to more than $1,000 for DUI or reckless driving.
2. Insurance surcharges. Insurance companies regularly check motor vehicle records for customer violations. If they find any, they will increase your car insurance premiums by a certain percentage to offset the increased risk that you represent to the company. These surcharges vary by both location and the type of violation. This is why safe driving can help you lower your auto insurance premiums.
3. “Points” for driving violations. States assign points for various violations that can remain on your driving record for several years. Though these are not a direct cost, they form the basis of other charges. Insurance surcharges are based on them, and if you accumulate too many, your license could be subject to temporary suspension. If you are dependent on driving in order to earn your living – and most of us are – the suspension of your license could be the most expensive cost of all.
Each of the above categories will vary substantially from one state (or even community) to another. But generally speaking, you can expect the following violations to be the most expensive just about anywhere they happen:
Driving under the influence – DUI
On average, a DUI violation will increase your auto insurance premium by 19% – and that’s just for the first offense. Traffic fines can run in excess of $1,000, and a violator will generally receive the highest number of points awarded for any traffic violation.
In California, points resulting from a DUI will stay on your record for ten years. Accumulate too many points, and you can lose your license.
In fact, DUI violations often include the suspension of driving privileges, particularly if they occur in combination with other traffic violations. And statistically, people with DUI infractions have other violations, whether they are immediately connected to the DUI itself or a previous incident.
Extreme situations, or repeat offenses, can result in jail time. Like the suspension of driving privileges, jail time will interfere with the violators ability to earn an income, which can add many thousands of dollars on top of fines and insurance surcharges.
Reckless driving covers a lot of different behaviors. But it is generally described as driving with an intentional disregard for property or the safety of other people. It can be something as “ordinary” as tailgating.
The average auto insurance surcharge is actually higher than what it is for DUI, at about 22% per violation. This is at least in part because reckless driving incidents run the gamut. And different jurisdictions have different definitions as to what it includes.
Much like a DUI, reckless driving can involve fines well beyond $1,000. In cases involving personal injury and certainly death, both license suspension and jail time is common.
Driving without a license or permit
We have to make a distinction here when it comes to driving without a license or permit. Simply not having a license or permit on your person at the time of a police stop is usually a minor violation. Often, that violation will be waived if you can produce the required license or permit within a specified amount of time.
But then there is true driving without a license or permit – as in you don’t have one, or the one you had was suspended or revoked. This kind of violation is a heavyweight on the expense side. Insurance surcharges average 18%, and while fines may only be a few hundred dollars, there’s a high likelihood of jail time.
Like reckless driving, careless driving can have different meanings in different jurisdictions. In general, while reckless driving involves intentional disregard for safety, careless driving is more about negligent disregard.
Despite the lower status of careless driving, the expense of a violation is still a stiff one. Insurance surcharges average 16%, and much like reckless driving violations, fines can run from a few hundred dollars, to well past $1,000. Much depends upon personal injury or the extent of damage created by the violation. At the upper end, this can also lead to license suspension and jail time.
Speeding 30 or more miles over the limit and failure to stop (tie)
These two violations will result in an average insurance surcharge in the neighborhood of 15%. Fines are high because of the very real potential for personal injury.
Notice that the cost for speeding is on a high-end – at 30 or more miles over the posted speed limit. Exceeding the speed limit at lower speeds can result in significantly lower penalties, particularly insurance surcharges. In some states, insurance companies will not even impose a surcharge, for example, if the violation is for no more than 10 miles over the speed limit.
Failure to stop involves several possible scenarios, depending on jurisdiction:
- Running a red light
- Making a right turn on red without first stopping
- Running a stop sign
- Failing to stop at an emergency stop (police stop)
- Failing to stop for a school bus
Whatever the violation, considering the number of potential expenses involved in any driving incident should be strong motivation to slow down and be more careful while driving.
(Insurance surcharge source: Insurance.com.)