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Every driver dreads being pulled over by the police and handed a citation for a traffic violation. Stress can be amplified when you don’t fully understand the difference between a ticket and a citation. Whether or not you have been pulled over before, it is always wise to know what to do when you get a citation and how this affects your driving record and auto insurance cost.
Citation vs. ticket
A “ticket” is simply a less-formal term for a citation; there is no difference between the two terms. Both are written records of you disobeying traffic laws with your vehicle while operating it or after it was parked. A ticket or citation is a written document typically issued by a police officer. In some cases, a speeding camera may notify the police if you were not obeying traffic laws, and a citation may be issued. When you get a ticket or citation, you will generally have to pay a fine and could even face a court appearance or jail time, depending on the severity of the offense.
Citations, moving violations and speeding tickets
Some citations are considered non-moving citations, issued for action taken when you are not actively operating your vehicle: for instance, a parking ticket. Citations can also be issued for moving violations, like speeding tickets, for actions when you are operating your vehicle. Some common moving violations include:
- Speeding tickets: Speeding ticket convictions are when you may get a traffic citation or ticket for driving faster than the speed limit, resulting in a fine. A speeding ticket conviction will appear on your driving record and may negatively affect your insurance rate.
- Running a red light/stop sign: Because this traffic citation makes the road more dangerous for everyone, a failure to stop ticket usually comes with a pretty hefty fine. Penalties vary by state and other factors, like if you caused an accident.
- Driving under the influence (DUI)/driving while intoxicated (DWI): This traffic citation comes with serious penalties, from a sizable fine to license suspension and jail time. This ticket will likely appear on your motor vehicle record for at least three years. However, in certain states, it could remain on your record for up to 10 years, which means you may pay much more for auto insurance for the next decade.
- Failure to signal: If you do not signal when taking turns, there is a chance of getting a moving violation. You may get a citation for this offense, which could earn you points on your license and a fine.
When you are pulled over by a law enforcement officer and issued a citation, the officer will typically explain the accusation against you. In the case of a speeding ticket, for example, the officer may have captured your speed on a handheld speed gun.
Once the officer explains why they believe you committed an infraction, you will be handed the ticket. This does not mean you are admitting guilt, but are agreeing to pay the ticket or appear in court to dispute it.
How does a ticket impact your car insurance rate?
Depending on your auto insurance company and your driving history, your car insurance rate could increase if you receive a traffic citation.
First-time auto citation
If you are concerned about the impact a citation may have on your auto insurance rate, you may consider asking about ticket forgiveness. Some insurers allow forgiveness for first-time offenders, where a ticket will not impact their insurance premiums.
For repeat offenders or drivers whose insurance does not offer forgiveness, a single citation could raise your premium by several hundred dollars per year. Depending on the severity of your citation, you may see your insurance premium spike by quite a bit.
|Clean driving record||After one speeding ticket||Percent increase|
*Based on annual full-coverage car insurance rates
Repeat traffic citations
Too many motor vehicle infractions, especially if they result in your driver’s license being revoked or suspended, could cause significant premium increases or even cause an insurer to discontinue your coverage. This can happen in one of two ways.
- If you have had a few infractions, but your driver’s license is still valid (meaning it has not been suspended or revoked), you may get a policy non-renewal notice from your auto insurer. This notice gives you an advanced warning that you cannot renew your auto insurance policy with that company. If you are deemed a high-risk driver, you not only face higher insurance rates, but may have a harder time securing an insurance policy.
- If your license has been suspended, you could get a notice of cancellation from your auto insurer. This can happen at any time during the term of your policy. You may also need to file an SR22 certificate for having multiple speeding tickets or to reinstate your driver’s license.
In addition to fines, getting a ticket adds points to your driving record. If you incur enough points, you may have your license revoked by your state’s motor vehicle department. If you get a traffic citation, the surcharge may be applied to your next policy renewal. It is important to note that some policy terms may be shorter than others, so you could see a premium increase sooner if you have a six-month policy versus an annual policy.
Frequently asked questions
Having traffic violations on your motor vehicle record can impact the cost of your premiums for a few years, but there may be ways to offset the negative financial impact. Taking an approved driving course is one method for possibly reducing the cost of premiums when you have citations on your record. Enrolling in a safe driver program, where you agree to use telematics (such as an installed app or device) in exchange for feedback on your driving is another way to earn a potential discount. Lastly, talk to your insurance agent or company to ensure you are taking advantage of all available discounts.
A citation is another word for a ticket. Both terms refer to a document issued by local or state law enforcement explaining that you are accused of committing a traffic offense, like speeding. Failure to resolve your citation could create bigger problems. A warning is a less serious offense, typically a verbal notification by a police officer, that most likely will not be included on your motor vehicle record.
The length of time a violation remains on your driving record depends on its severity and the state. Speeding ticket convictions generally affect your insurance rates for three years or more. However, a DUI citation may remain on your driving record for up to 10 years.
Auto insurance premium increases implemented after a speeding ticket may last about three years. After about three years from your ticket’s conviction date, your insurance costs may no longer be affected by your ticket. However, there may be ways to save to offset higher insurance costs. Asking about discounts, taking an approved defensive driving course or considering telematics are a few options worth considering.
Bankrate utilizes Quadrant Information Services to analyze 2023 rates for ZIP codes and carriers in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Rates are weighted based on the population density in each geographic region. Quoted rates are based on a 40-year-old male and female driver with a clean driving record, good credit and the following full coverage limits:
- $100,000 bodily injury liability per person
- $300,000 bodily injury liability per accident
- $50,000 property damage liability per accident
- $100,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury per person
- $300,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury per accident
- $500 collision deductible
- $500 comprehensive deductible
Our base profile drivers own a 2021 Toyota Camry, commute five days a week and drive 12,000 miles annually.
Incidents: Rates were calculated by evaluating our base profile with a clean driving record compared to the same profiles with a single speeding ticket.
These are sample rates and should only be used for comparative purposes.