10/24/2012 3:30 PM ET|
How to get a warning, not a ticket
If you get stopped by a policeman or trooper, a ticket that jacks up your car insurance bill is the last thing you want. Here's how to avoid one.
When you see flashing lights in your rearview mirror, take a deep breath. The next few minutes could make all the difference when your next insurance bill arrives.
State troopers and police officers have 100% discretion. They can write you a ticket, or they can give you a warning. They can write down exactly what their radar gun shows, or they can write down a number that will lower your fine and reduce the number of points on your license.
If you have been pulled over, your immediate fate is in the officer's hands -- and so are your future insurance premiums.
A speeding ticket that qualifies as reckless driving in your state is the single worst traffic violation you can inflict on your insurance bill, according to data gathered by Insurance.com, with premiums rising an average of 22%. But knocked down to 14 mph or less over the limit, that hit falls to 11%.
Of course, the best way to keep your insurance from going up at all is to keep the ticket off your record in the first place.
To increase your chances of a receiving a warning rather than a ticket:
- Make it an easy stop. Pull over quickly, turn your interior lights on and keep your hands in sight on the wheel. When an officer approaches a vehicle, says Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Scott Bright, he or she will be looking at how many people are in the car and where their hands are.
- Be respectful. If you were looking for a way to ensure a ticket, being argumentative, angry or rude is a great way to do it. "There is no guarantee that a driver will receive a warning based upon behavior," says Colorado State Patrol Capt. Jeff Goodwin, "but it certainly helps to be respectful and less confrontational."
- Save the excuses. Law enforcement officers have heard them all, so save your sob story. Answers to any questions should be brief and noncommittal. (For example, if the officer asks if you know why you've been pulled over, say no, legal experts advise.) Don't argue. This isn't a court.
Here is why you should bite your tongue.
"Every year," says Goodwin, "the CSP (Colorado State Patrol) issues many more warnings than citations."
In 2010, the Chicago Sun Times looked at the tickets written by the Lake County Illinois Sheriff's Department and found huge differences among officers. One officer issued only warnings, while another was responsible for 90% of the tickets written.
Perspectives often change as troopers gain experience.
Bright recalls that as a young Iowa trooper he frequently gave drivers a break on speed, but after 22 years on the road, he now writes tickets for the exact speed. "Without fail, it would be the drivers I gave a break that were the ones that would go to court," he says.
Anything above 80 mph is de facto reckless driving in Hawaii, North Carolina and Virginia. That threshold is 100 mph in California and Minnesota. A few mph one way or the other means the difference between a fine and losing your license to suspension.
If you were polite and honest and you kept your hands on the wheel, but you still got a ticket, remember that the law and statistics are on the officer's side. According to the National Transportation Highway Safety Administration, 32,880 people died in traffic accidents in 2010. Speeding caused 32% of those deaths.
When to fight, when to shop
Once you've been stopped for speeding, several outcomes are possible: a warning, a ticket that cuts you a break or a full-fledged, license-denting traffic violation. You still have options even after the officer has handed you the ticket and told you to have a nice day.
The National Motorists Association estimates that less than 5% of drivers go to court. Spokesman John Bowman says not fighting a ticket is a mistake. "Drivers will almost always come out ahead," he says, "either with a full dismissal or at least a lower penalty."
You can also go for deferred adjudication, a deal that prevents the conviction from appearing on your motor vehicle record.
But once the conviction is on your record, there is little you can do to lower your insurance rates except shop for a different insurance company, says Penny Gusner, a consumer analyst with CarInsurance.com.
"Insurance companies rate tickets differently," Gusner says, "and while your current one may raise your rates 10%, another one may not raise your rates on just one minor offense or surcharge you only 5% for it."
A minor ticket might not warrant an increase in your premium. But you could lose your good driver discount, and in some states that could bring a 20% increase in your insurance bill.
More from CarInsurance.com:
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I live in VA and the reckless driving threat is real. I was down state near the NC border driving in a two lane divided highway. I was going 82 and never ever realized it until the officer told me. GET A LAWYER and go to court. The attorney advised me to get my car calibrated (the speedometer checked against the actual speed). I told him the car was pretty new and doubted it would be off. He said do it anyway. Well $70 later I had a calibration that told me my car was perfectly tuned. I went to court and simply by having had the calibration the judge reduced the violation from reckless driving to faulty equipment - a non moving violation. Net result was that I paid around $100 court costs and fines. Nothing reported on my driving record, my insurance rates stayed the same.
Granted, I had not had a ticket for 5 years prior to that and I'm sure that had an impact on the judge as well. But the lawyer said that the judge needed the calibration so he could "hang his hat on it"
By the way, NOTHING I would have done or said would have softened the officer in any way writing the ticket. As the saying goes - "Tell it to the judge"
Let me slap some reality on some people,First off,the police are lowering there leeway for speeding and other tickets is because there supervisers tell the officers to.And to give out so many tickets over a monthly period(we have all heard that,well its true),its called making there quota.Secondly,if you look in your rear view mirror,and see a older cop,you are more likely to get out of a ticket completely,why?,because most of the time they already have 20 or 25 years in, and there not looking to score any more browny points,or looking to suck up to the chief for promotion or raises.
Thirdly,just so everyone knows,the state is not looking to save your life,they are looking to see how much revenue they could rake in.Same thing with seat belts,the reason all states kinda past the law at once,is because the states were presured by the government to past the law if they still wanted to collect federal funds.And do you know who made a deal with the government,the insurence companies.They will inturn kick money back to the government,from all themoney that they will be saving from you not going threw the windshield.
Article SUCKED. IT didn't tell you have to get a warning instead of a ticket. It is a no brainer not to argue with a cop. He is liable to yank you out of the car and beat you half to death! Must have been a real slow day at MSN to come up with this article...a 12 year old could have written it.
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