5/5/2011 12:12 PM ET|
The $5,000 speeding ticket
The citation itself might not seem all that expensive, but the effect it can have on your auto insurance rates will surprise you.
I hadn't been stopped for speeding in more than 20 years.
Call me dull, but I honestly do like to poke along. Driving through the high plains of New Mexico this winter, though, I apparently missed a 40 mph sign where a lonesome highway ducked between buildings before re-emerging into open sky.
Moments later, two officers stood by my pickup, eyeing my out-of-state plates with a bit more satisfaction than seemed appropriate.
"You can pay the $60 now, or" -- and here, the older officer actually smiled -- "show up at the court date next month."
I was tempted to pay. It was only $60.
But it's a good thing I didn't. If I was thinking the ticket was only $60, then I was thinking wrong. The real cost of a ticket always comes later, when your car insurance company finds out. Most people know that.
But do you know how much a ticket can ultimately cost while it taints your record anywhere from three to six years?
Multiply that ticket by 30
I talked my way out of that New Mexico ticket. The speed trap seemed unfair and I was in a talkative mood.
I wasn't aware that a single ticket could have cost me my safe-driver discount and jacked up my premium by 15 percent, or $372 over the next six years, more than six times the speeding fine.
But that's nothing. My auto insurance rates are already well below average, and I have an old beater that spends most of its time in the driveway. And my home state -- like several other states and some insurers -- ignores the first infraction.
What happened to a family member may be more typical. He already had one ticket on the family policy, but with two drivers, they doubled their risk of a second infraction. When his wife rolled through a stop sign, the other shoe dropped.
A 30 percent surcharge kicked in, and it set them back the price of a used car: $4,000 over six years -- 32 times the amount of the $125 rolling-stop ticket.
"That doesn't sound unreasonable. That sounds about right," says Ted Hollander, a lawyer who has defended drivers in traffic court for 14 years. His firm, The Ticket Clinic, makes its business not because people want to evade the fines, but because they can't afford the 40, 50, or even 100 percent increase in their auto insurance premiums.
"That's why hiring a lawyer, paying him $150, is the deal of the century," he says.
More tickets, more accidents?
The insurance industry has good reason to be wary of leadfoots.
Traffic accidents cost the industry tens of billions of dollars annually, and its analysts agree that drivers with traffic violations are more likely to be in accidents. Nearly one-third of fatal accidents in the United States are due to speeding, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. "If we ignore that, and all of our competitors don't, then we're writing policies for the people who do tend to violate traffic laws that are (priced) too low," says Dick Luedke, a spokesman for State Farm, the nation's largest auto insurer.
Not everyone thinks the insurance industry's formula is fair, though.
Do motorists who get tickets have accidents because they're unsafe drivers? Or are the same motorists -- those who put in many miles -- likely to both get more tickets and be in more accidents?
"Many of these violations are not predictive of the quality of driving," says Gary Biller, executive director of the National Motorists Association, a membership-based drivers' rights organization. "Your premium gets jacked up generally 20 percent over the next three years, at least, and it's almost entirely profit for the insurance company because they don't have the risk of the future claim."
After all, you're far more likely to be careful once you've been nabbed.
How to get pulled over for speeding
Let's say I'd paid instead of pleaded on that New Mexico roadside. Had I run into a second speed trap -- not unlikely given my daily mileage in unfamiliar terrain -- my rates would have shot up 40 percent for the next six years, costing a total of $1,026, according to a few what-if conversations with my very patient insurance agent.
Scary, but that doesn't mean flashing lights should spark panic.
- Pull over as soon as you can, but don't block a lane or stop suddenly. Make sure there is space for the police vehicle to stop safely as well.
- Turn off your car. Keep your hands visible. At night, turn on the interior light.
- Don't argue with the police officer, but don't admit guilt. Belligerence never helps. (The officer said he let me off with a warning because I was "respectful and nice.")
- Call your insurance company. Ask how the ticket would affect your rates, and for how long. Every company will have its own rules. "Just to blindly go in and pay a traffic ticket without knowledge of the long-term consequences is a poor decision," Hollander says. "A person owes it to themselves to get some advice."
- Contact a traffic lawyer. Lawyers know the intricacies of police equipment and its operation, and stand a far greater chance of winning your case than you do. In some areas, they may also know whether it's possible to pay without getting points on your record.
In New York, leaving the scene of a minor accident will net you three points, reckless driving will net you five points. But speeding by 31 to 40 mph over the limit will land you eight points. If you're going 41 mph over the limit, you'll get hit with 11 points right off the bat. That's one strike, you're out.
"I recommend fighting every traffic ticket, even if it's a small ticket," says traffic attorney Matthew Weiss of 888RedLight in New York. "The repercussions get exponentially worse."
Traffic lawyers often say they will work for less than the cost of the ticket itself. The Ticket Clinic typically charges $150 to $250 per case.
The second ticket is a killer
A traffic ticket's effect on your auto insurance rates depends on many factors, including the state you live in and which insurance company you use. The more tickets you get and the more serious those tickets are, the more you'll be hurting.
Ticket No. 1
The clock starts running. Most insurers won't raise your rates on a first, garden-variety speeding ticket, and some states won't add points to your license for what they classify as a small offense. For example, in New York state, these include going less than 15 mph over the limit, rolling through a stop sign, making an improper turn, running a red light, and others. But there are always variables -- the points are excused if it's the only ticket you've received in three years. Some states consider periods of five or six years.
Ticket No. 2
The other shoe drops. The first time points are assessed, whether it's from a big speeding ticket or just two minor tickets, drivers are likely to see at least a 5 percent to 20 percent increase in their premiums. If it's two tickets for even a minor at-fault accident, beware: Your insurance company might want to drop you.
Ticket No. 3
Now you're a problem driver. It doesn't take long before the state demands certified proof that you're insured, known as an SR-22. Expect an insurer to double your rates or worse, perhaps even drop you altogether.
Ticket No. 4 and beyond
Your life is about to change. How many points are you allowed to have on your record in your state before you lose your license? Check your state's department of motor vehicles website, because there's a good chance that if you get three tickets within a single "consideration period," you'll be at your limit. The result: bye-bye, license. And, if your boss needs you to drive, or to have access to the company car, there goes the job, too. Driving records are public.
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"That's why hiring a lawyer, paying him $150, is the deal of the century," he says.That says a lot about what's wrong in this country...
Tickets are very very expensive. You end up to pay everything else. Insurance companies, towing car companies and police enforcement have a very cozy relationship: Parasites living off each others.
In the name of "Protect and Serve", it is all about generating revenue to pay for generous salary, nice pension, overtime, and huge health benefits for police and sheriffs dept.: these thugs are giving more tickets to avoid layoffs.
If it is not good enough, they installing traffic cameras all over the cities. It is not about safety but purely profits, profits, and profits.
It is beyond tickets, insurace will raise your premium. Everybody wins, except Us at the bottom.
Here it is the biggest scam. You pay for insurance and go along 5, 10, 15, 20 years or so then you have an accident. Do the insurance companies looks at your past good driving nope. Accident = Big Insurance Rates.
Also now most companies try to tell you where to take your car to be fixed. Last I knew you could go anywhere you wanted too. You don't have to use their Mr. Fixit. Because if you do most times you are paying the Auto Shop more then the insurance is paying them.
It's time the insurance companies realize that people are getting smarter and pretty soon won't tolerate their raising insurance.
The worst insurance is Geico they promise in six months they will review your policy and possibly lower it if no infractions or accidents are claimed. Geico does not do this I know from first hand expierence. I was with them for 7 years and the only thing my policy did was go up. No accidents, no tickets. Just rates kept increasing.
Driving the speed limit is not always the answer either. I got stopped by a DOT cop ( so he said) but I was not speeding. He didn't tell me why He stopped me. Anything He wrote me up for He had to stop me in order to find the problems.
So it's as some of you said.It's all a MONEYS game. See which one can collect the biggest check or some such thing.
The guy that stopped me was the rudest most obnoxious man I have ever met. He blatantly told me He didn't care what happened to me as long as He got to go home safe and sound.
He also did a lot of chest thumping. I wonder if He would be so superior with out the uniform..?
In some jurisdictions in the USA, if you follow the speed limit, you are holding up traffic, especially on a parkway/freeway. In a recent trip I took in NJ to see my sister, I was travelling the Garden State Parkway, which had some stretches of it with a speed limit of 45 MPH, but the flow of traffic through these stretches were travelling at 65 to 70 MPH. So assuming that you were going with the flow of traffic at 70 MPH, and you get pulled over by the NJ state police. That is 25 MPH over the limit, which can be a very costly endeavor with the insurance companies.
The problem also exists in that if you do not go with the flow of traffic (by following the posted speed limit), you may also be cited for obstruction of the flow of traffic, and may be cited for that also. So it is a lose-lose situation.
The worst though for auto insurance purposes is a DUI conviction. Had been arrested for a possible DUI in Washington State where you could be considered to be "under the influence (DUI)" for taking prescription drugs (Gabapentin, and Tramadol) . Fortunately, the drug blood test had no drugs found so the court dropped the misdemeanor DUI criminal charge in exchange for a traffic infraction (Neg Driving II). Had I been convicted of a DUI, for a first time DUI offense, I would have had to serve jail time of up to 30 days, a suspension of my drivers license for 90 days, and a $ 1000.00 fine. But if I had the DUI conviction, my insurance company would have dropped me like a hot potato, and the only way I could have gotten auto insurance was the high risk SR-22 route (with a tripling of auto insurance premiums).
By the way, also, Washington State has a felony DUI law, where if you get three misdemeanor DUI convictions in three years, the third conviction is bumped up to a felony, with a minimum one year prison sentence, and a felony record for the rest of your life. So Washington State is definitely NOT the place to be if you take certain prescription drugs and drive.
Just an insight into the various traffic laws around the nation.
There are few bad drivers out there but the majority 98% are victims like you. Each employee in our justice system costs about average $175,000-250,000/year including huge salary, overtime, huge pension, generous health benefits, car and many other perks.
98 percent of these cops with "honorable badges" are to evict people from their houses and working for the banks. If not busy enough, these thugs have a quota to meet. These crooks are very sneaky people. If it is your unlucky days, time to pay up. Outside of county or out of state victics are the easiest preys because most likey they end up to pay fines without contests. There is nothing much you can do.
Many cities using traffic cameras to maximize profits.
Insurance companies and polices are the biggest beneficiaries. The court system, cunning clerks, towing companies, law firms, cities, unions and traffic schools are part of the corrupted ecosystems. Everything is about profits, profits, and damn profits at our expenses.
I once read an article in the local paper that explained our speed limits are set anywhere from 15 to 30 miles under what is safe to drive; which is why most of us speed. We aren't intentionally racing, we are just automatically cruising at the correct speed (there are exceptions, of course). My roommate drives over an hour to get to work and in the little podunk town he has to drive through, there are 3 or 4 different speed limits along the same main roadway.
Speed limits are a trap to separate the honest citizen from more of his/her hard-earned money and while cameras are a good idea at lights that drivers frequently run, they are just more money traps on roads that have inordinately low speeds set.
NY considers running a red light a small offense? Of all the violations cited, I'd say that was the only truly dangerous one. You can kill yourself or others running a light.
Rolling through a stop sign though? That's just municipal fund raising. A good 80% of the stop signs in this country should be yield signs anyway, like they are in, say, England. Of course, the English spend an entire year learning how to drive; it seems we barely learn how to start the car before getting a license.
Thing is, if you drive well, and avoid tickets and accidents, your rates are low, and one thing on your record won't hurt you too bad. If you have a horrible driving record, and you keep doing stupid things while driving, you could always call Geico or The General!
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