Good news for the lead foot: tickets don't always drive up insurance costs

Published: Friday, Feb. 22 2013 8:35 a.m. MST

Salt Lake County Sheriff Deputy Scott Lloyd gives a driver a speeding ticket in Taylorsville, June 16, 2000.

CHUCK WING, Deseret News

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For the one in six drivers who received a traffic ticket in 2012, only 31 percent of them had increased insurance costs due to the ticket, according to research by insurancequotes.com.

Why is the 31 percent so lucky? Laura Adams, a senior analyst for insurancequotes.com, said that companies aren’t looking. Reports are kept by each state through the Department of Motor Vehicles.

“When an insurer goes to pull those records, not only is it a time issue, but it’s expensive for them to pull those reports,” Adams said. “They are only going to pull them for those they deem to be potentially riskier.”

Those higher risk drivers are ages 18 to 29, and insurance costs rose for 41 percent of them when they had a traffic violation. Insurance companies check on those in this age group about every six months and can adjust the premiums according to violations.

But for the rest of the population, insurance companies check reports less often. Although it varies on the carrier, those 50 and older have reports checked about every one or two years. Fifteen percent of this age group had increased costs after a ticket, according to the insurancequotes.com study.

“It’s good to be older,” Adams said. “You don’t get your driving records checked as frequently by the insurance companies.”

On average, a speeding ticket costs $150, according to Mr. Ticket, a law office website. When insurance premiums are raised, the increase is usually less than $100.

Eventually, an insurance company will see the offense, but it may not always raise the price.

“We found they are more likely to be forgiving about a ticket if you’ve had a clean driving record prior to that,” Adams said. “Say you’ve had a clean record for five or 10 years. You’re more likely to get forgiveness from them either by them ignoring it altogether or increasing your rate less than if you'd had multiple tickets within that same time period.”

The relationship with the insurer, including how many policies you have with the company, can also help on the leniency. Those with more policies from the same provider can qualify for discounts and are more likely to be forgiven.

When someone who is insurance shopping has had a ticket in the past three to five years, however, it will make the premiums more expensive.

Companies look at the driving report for those signing a policy. Adams said shopping around to compare insurance prices is the best option in this circumstance.

When a ticket is issued, there are ways to limit a ticket’s impact. By attending traffic safety school, you can wipe points off a driving record. The benefits that come from the course differ by state. In Utah, 50 points are taken off a driving record after you take a course, according to DMV, a site that offers information on ticketing for each state.

Consulting an attorney about a high pointed record; avoiding getting a second ticket; and keeping vehicle registration, license plates and state inspection up to date to avoid unwanted attention from law enforcement will soften the impact as well, Adams said.

EMAIL: alovell@deseretnews.com

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