If the sight and sound of flashing lights and sirens in your rear-view mirror aren’t enough to encourage you to change your bad driving behavior, maybe the reality of steep insurance premium hikes will. A new study from InsuranceQuotes.com shows that moving violations offenders can see quadrupled insurance rates as a result.
Increases Vary Significantly by State
Of course, not every driver will see quadrupled insurance rates, and it is important to note that increases for moving violations vary significantly by state. According to the second annual InsuranceQuotes.com report, North Carolina is at the top of the list for highest insurance premiums following various moving violations. In fact, North Carolina had the highest increase for more than half of the moving violations studied.
Which state had the least increases? That state was New York, which most consistently had the lowest percentage increase.
How much are we talking about? Let’s start with the charge of a driving under the influence (DUI), also called driving while intoxicated (DWI). On a national basis, one DUI will result in a 92 percent insurance premium increase. In North Carolina, however, that DUI tacks on a 337 percent premium hike, nearly four times the national average. On the lower end of the spectrum, Maryland drivers will see a more modest 15 percent rate hike.
Which Moving Violations Matter Most and Where
The study, which analyzed the average national premium increase for one moving violation in 17 categories, found that the increases vary significantly for different types of violations. After DUI/DWI, reckless driving is number two on the list of moving violations that will jack up drivers’ insurance premiums, resulting in an 83 percent increase on a national average.
In Hawaii, however, reckless driving adds to drivers’ headaches by causing their insurance costs to jump by 287 percent. In Arkansas, meanwhile, drivers who incur a reckless driving conviction will see their insurance rates climb by 24 percent.
As for the moving violation that results in the least amount of insurance premium hike, on a national basis, that’s not wearing a seat belt. The average hit to your insurance premium is 6 percent – not that we’d ever advocate driving (or riding) unbelted.
Case Study: North Carolina
What makes North Carolina so prone to steep rate hikes? Diving deeper into the list of moving violations, the study found that North Carolina is a perplexing situation. Not only did the state come in first or second in 14 of 17 moving violations, but the amount of insurance premium increase increased significantly over last year’s InsuranceQuotes.com study. A 2014 DUI conviction in the state caused a resulting premium increase of 251 percent. That percent has since increased an additional 86 percent for the DUI conviction.
We asked Laura Adams, senior analyst at InsuranceQuotes.com/Bankrate, for some answers.
“North Carolina is unique because one in four drivers is in the high-risk insurance pool,” says Adams. “North Carolina insurance laws prevent insurers from charging these high-risk drivers as much as they’d like. So if an average driver with regular insurance gets a ticket, his insurance rate is hiked up in order to subsidize the costs of the high-risk pool.”
Short of moving to another state where insurance premium rate hikes are less than prohibitive, what can drivers do to lessen the hit of moving violations? There are actually some proactive things that every driver can do.
- Shop around – According to Adams, it definitely pays to shop around. “Insurers weight violations differently so while one insurer may really ding you for reckless driving, another insurer may offer a more forgiving rate,” says Adams.
- Go to court, plea to a lesser charge – It’s tough to stomach, but if you wind up with a moving violation, your best strategy may be to go to court and plea bargain it to a lesser charge. There’s also the possibility the charge (especially a relatively minor moving violation) will be forgiven if you attend a diversion course or watch a movie.
- Enroll in traffic school – Say you’ve already gotten your moving violation and have seen your insurance rates climb. What can you do now? Experts say you may be able to reduce future premiums by taking a defensive driving course, sometimes referred to as traffic school (which may or may not be the same as what the court may offer up as an alternative to a moving violation charge).
While these alternatives may not immediately solve the problem, keep in mind that moving violations typically remain on drivers’ records for three years. Some more serious violations, however, such as a DUI, stay on your record for 10 years. Residents of Alaska have it the worst. A DUI there will stick on your driving record forever.
We asked Adams about what parents can do, like paying special attention to their teen’s driving behavior – use of cell phone, distracted driving, speeding, etc., so that they can prevent bad driving behavior or nip it in the bud before it results in moving violations.
“Parents absolutely can help nip dangerous and distracted driving behaviors in the bud,” Adams replies. “While your teen is learning to drive, it’s the perfect time to show him or her the type of driving behavior you’d like them to model. You can also sit down with your teen and draw up a parent-teen driving agreement which can clearly set expectations and limits for his or her driving.”