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If you have been involved in a traffic accident or received several traffic tickets for speeding or reckless behavior, you are probably aware that the cost of your auto insurance can increase dramatically when you have problems in your driving history.

And since car insurance is legally required by all states but New Hampshire, you probably have to keep your car insured no matter what your driving record is.

Negative impacts on a driving history

Not every traffic ticket causes your insurance rates to go up. Parking tickets, for example, usually have no impact on your insurance coverage at all.

Things that put you in an auto insurance company's high-risk category include recent or multiple car accidents, driving while intoxicated or tickets for reckless driving. The insurance company will consider all aspects of your accident or traffic ticket when it adjusts your premium rates. If you are issued a speeding ticket, the speed recorded on the ticket will make a difference.

What you drive is as important as how you drive

Your driving history is only one of the things that establishes your insurance rating.

High-risk drivers are not always those who have been found at fault for a collision or who have received several speeding tickets.

The type of vehicle you are driving can cause you to be categorized as a high-risk driver based on the potential for damage and the expense of repair or replacement.

Expensive high-powered sports cars are considered high risk and often come with expensive premiums.

Age and experience factors

Younger drivers who have very little experience behind the wheel are also considered high risk by insurance companies.

These drivers may have never been involved in any type of accident or received any traffic tickets, but their lack of experience is considered a risk factor.

If someone has been driving for only a few years, it is difficult to gauge the driving behaviors of that person accurately. Having a very short driving history can be just as expensive as having a driving history that includes collision or ticket problems.

More severe high-risk coverage options

Some driving history problems are more expensive to cover than others are. If a driver has been convicted of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he or she will need to find an insurance agency that specializes in covering severe high-risk individuals.

Since insurance is legally required, the agencies are required to provide insurance for people who have exhibited even the most reckless behaviors.

This type of auto insurance will cost more than a standard policy, but it will keep you on the right side of the law as far as your car insurance is concerned.

It may take more time and effort to find an agency that carries such high-risk policies, but in the end, it is generally worth it to maintain your ability to legally own and drive your car after you have had a serious problem in your driving history.

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Cost differences with nonstandard drivers

Everyone who has a short driving history, has been found at fault for an accident, or has received a serious traffic ticket is considered a nonstandard driver by auto insurance companies. These drivers will have to pay higher rates than standard drivers do.

The amount of increase that you will experience as a nonstandard driver depends a great deal on the reason you are considered nonstandard.

In general, high-risk drivers pay from 10% to 15% more annually than standard drivers do.

If you have been shown to be a severely high-risk driver, you may have to pay up to three times more than a driver with a cleaner driving history.

Reducing your high-risk status

There are things you can do to reduce your insurance rates, even if you are one of the most high-risk drivers.

Your best friend for bringing car insurance rates down is time. When you are involved in an accident, your rates will go up immediately.

They will begin to come down again as time passes, you are not involved in any new accidents and you avoid traffic violations. Insurance rates can return to standard after as few as three years of driving with a clean record. In the most severe cases, it may take up to five years to return to standard rates.

This article was reported by Chad Fisher for U.S. News & World Report.