How Does a Careless Driving Ticket Affect My Car Insurance?

Woman receiving ticket from police officer


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Even the best-intentioned driver can make a mistake and receive a careless driving ticket. If your car insurance company discovers it, which is likely, the ticket can cost you in the form of increased insurance payments. The length varies by state but will last for three years on average.

Key Takeaways

  • Law enforcement takes careless driving seriously, and a ticket can be costly.
  • A citation for careless driving will be factored into a larger assessment by your insurance company of how risky of a driver you are overall.
  • Careless driving will result in a hike in your premiums, and while there are ways to protect yourself against the cost, prevention is the most effective.

What Is Careless Driving?

Suppose you're on a road trip, and it’s been a long day. You keep the AC on full-blast and chug coffee in your aim to stay awake and make it to the next state before stopping for the night. Your driving partner is asleep beside you.

These conditions on a wide-open night road could still lead you to grow weary and start weaving into the other lane. This risky driving behavior would likely attract the attention of a police officer and would qualify as careless driving.

Your intentions may have been innocent, but the result would have been the same—you would have put yourself and others in the path of potential harm.

What Will a Careless Driving Ticket Cost?

Unfortunately, a careless driving ticket can be very expensive—expect to pay state fees and fines on top of higher insurance payments. The chart below shows how much auto insurance increases on average, depending on different violations, including careless driving.

How Much Will Car Insurance Go Up?

It's difficult to put an exact dollar amount on how much you can expect your premiums to increase, because many variables factor into an individual's car insurance premium. Your insurance agent might even have a tough time telling you the expected rate increase if the incident hasn't yet hit your car insurance policy.

A lot of things go into factoring your rate. A young driver can be hit harder than a middle-aged driver. You can probably expect anywhere from a 10% to 40% increase. A 2020 study by Quadrant Information Services found that the national average of insurance premium increases for "high-risk" drivers with two speeding tickets within three years is 43%.

Penalties for any tickets you've received will be included in your rate when your policy renews. Car insurance is typically recalculated every six months, but some companies do it just once per year.

Your driving record is pulled each time your policy renews, and any changes, such as tickets for moving violations, are included in your new rate. If your renewal was already in the process of being calculated, you might avoid the increase for another six months. If you're slated for renewal in the next month, however, you should probably anticipate the increase then.

Insurance policies can vary, but most insurers will keep the ticket on your record for rate-setting purposes for three years.

You probably won't be eligible for a violation-free discount for five years, so that's typically how long you'll have to wait to get back to preferred status.

What if You Already Had a Recent Traffic Violation?

If the careless driving ticket was your second or third traffic violation within the last three years, your insurance carrier could elect to cancel your car insurance policy because of your high-risk status.

If this is your situation, plan for the worst-case scenario, and start to shop around for a new policy with a high-risk insurance carrier. Switching insurance companies under these circumstances usually results in a higher rate, because the newest ticket will be factored in.

Ways to Protect Yourself

While careless driving tickets and car insurance increases are always frustrating, here are ways to move forward and protect yourself:

  • Do not let your car insurance policy lapse. Make your payments on time, so your insurer has no additional reason to cancel or not renew your policy.
  • Avoid more tickets. Staying out of trouble is the fastest way to make these high rates go away.
  • Consider consulting with a lawyer before paying the ticket. An attorney might be able to help you figure out how to avoid costly insurance penalties. Often, paying the ticket without fighting it or trying to negotiate the charge downward in court is considered an admission of guilt.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How serious is a careless driving ticket?

A ticket for careless driving is among the most serious types you can get. The only violations considered more serious are reckless driving, driving while intoxicated, racing on the highway, or exceeding the speed limit by more than 30 miles per hour.

How do you fight a careless driving ticket?

While the rules will vary, depending on where you live, you can generally fight driving tickets by appearing in court and pleading not guilty. You may also be able to get out of a driving ticket by attending traffic school.

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