The U.S. Department of Transportation recently released a startling study noting the biggest six-month increase in traffic fatalities since this number had started to be tracked back in 1979. The study noted that speeding and traveling without a seat belt remain higher than in pre-pandemic times.
Unsafe driving habits and traffic violations are costly for all parties involved. Traffic violations mean actions that cause all drivers and passengers to be at higher risk of accidents, vehicle damage, and even injury.
There’s more than just the potential safety risk. Drivers run the risk of tickets and legal action. Additionally, drivers could be risking their insurance coverage and rates. Even past violations can pose a risk. But just how far back does insurance look at your driving record?
Keep reading to find out the answers to this and other questions and to learn habits and strategies drivers can employ to keep themselves and other drivers safer.
How to Minimize Your Chances of a Traffic Ticket
Maintaining good driving habits should really just be considered another aspect of health and wellness. Traffic violations and driving tickets aren’t meant to be just a normal part of driving. In fact, there are habits drivers can use to keep themselves safe.
These habits will help minimize the likelihood of a driver being pulled over or issued a ticket.
The first and most important habit is to remain calm. Many drivers feel nervous or anxious when they see a police officer, especially if an officer pulls up behind them. An officer driving behind a car doesn’t mean there is an issue or concern.
If an officer does pull behind you, remember to stay calm. Take a deep breath and continue to drive within posted speed limits and follow all road rules. Staying calm means there will be less reason for a police officer to pull you over.
Keep Your Eyes Forward
It can be hard to stay motivated while driving long distances. Drivers can drift in and out of their lane, tense up, or lose focus altogether. It’s best practice to look ahead while driving. The further ahead you look, the less likely you are to sway in or out of your lane.
Any sort of side-to-side motion can look suspicious and cause an officer to get involved. If you look further down the road, you will be more focused and less nervous.
Always Wear a Seat Belt
Even if you aren’t doing anything wrong while driving, you could still receive a ticket for not wearing a seat belt. For argument’s sake, a driver may have a tail light out. While this is a ticketable offense, a police officer may want to simply issue a warning.
When the officer pulls the driver over, the officer may notice the driver isn’t wearing a seat belt. This is an immediate ticket and a big safety concern. Wearing a seat belt keeps you safer and minimizes the risk of a ticket.
It’s important to keep your car in good working order. Check any and all lights before taking off. Turn signals and other car lights are meant to ensure safety. Without these measures, you’re putting yourself and others at greater risk of accident or injury.
An inoperable headlight, tail light, or blinker can be cause for interaction with an officer and a potential ticket.
Do Not Speed
It can be easy to let the speedometer creep up over the posted speed limit. These slips happen to everyone, but it’s never a good idea to speed. Any increased speed could be grounds for a ticket.
It’s even more important to keep to the speed limit late at night or early in the morning. These times usually have few cars on the road, making you more obvious to police officers.
Consequences of Traffic Tickets
Any traffic ticket a driver receives has consequences. The exact consequences for a ticket will differ depending on the type and severity of the violation and the state in which the violation occurred.
The most common consequences associated with traffic violations are monetary fines. Depending on the type and severity of the violation, a driver could pay anywhere from $100 to over $400 per ticket.
The U.S. driving system is a points-based system. This means each traffic violation has a corresponding number of points associated with it. When a driver is issued a ticket or violation, the driver will receive a set number of points on their driving record.
These points will stay on a driver’s record for some time, in most cases three years. Points accumulate over time, but there is a limit. If a driver reaches the maximum number of points, their license will be suspended. The exact number, again, depends on the state.
Accumulating points, however, isn’t the only way a driver’s license can be suspended. In fact, a severe violation can cause a driver’s license to be suspended immediately. The most common cause for suspension is a driving under the influence (DUI) conviction.
These more serious convictions and other accumulated violations can be removed from a driver’s record, though. Traffic school is an option for most drivers who are convicted of a traffic violation. These schools are meant to encourage safer driving practices and empower drivers to drive better.
The specifics of traffic school vary. Some states offer online traffic school options, while others are in-person only. In some states, if a driver agrees to attend traffic school, they can avoid any associated fines. In other states, traffic school is simply one step in the process and fines are still imposed.
Auto Insurance Rate Increases
Insurance providers usually look at a driver’s record or driving history. That record helps providers determine the risk associated with a driver. Drivers with more traffic violations, especially DUIs, can be at risk for higher rates and premiums.
In most cases, insurance providers look at the past three years of a driver’s record. If that span of time is clean, then a driver has little to worry about.
If you do find yourself on the other end of a roadside stop, remain calm, and be prepared. Ensure you have all the proper, up-to-date documentation available and easily accessible.
Laura Gunn writes and researches for the auto insurance comparison site, BuyAutoInsurance.com. In her early days of driving, she attended traffic school to learn more about safe driving and is passionate about sharing that knowledge with others.