There’s a lot of information out there about car insurance as it pertains to tickets and traffic violations. Some of it’s true; some of it is exaggeration or pure misinformation. However, whether you get your information from a friend or family member, or an online search engine, it’s best to double check your sources. At Elephant Insurance, we’ve done the homework for you.

To help dispel any misconceptions or myths about tickets and violations, we’ve compiled the truth about common violations—and outlined quick facts about each. We’re also answering several popular questions we hear about driving records and insurance premiums as they relate to said violations. We hope you learn a thing or two and walk away as a confident, safe driver.

Types of Tickets & Violations


Speeding tickets are straightforward. If you’re caught exceeding the speed limit, you’ll be fined for putting yourself and others in danger. There’s no way around it. The price behind tickets varies depending on location and the miles per hour the driver is exceeding. Fines are generally lower if vehicles are traveling five versus fifty MPH over the speed limit. Plus, some states charge extra per MPH, while many charge additional fees for speeding through residential areas. Ultimately, it’s important to be aware of your state laws—and follow the speed limit.

Reckless driving

Unlike speeding violations, reckless driving can take many forms. In some states, exceeding a specific MPH limit constitutes reckless driving (in Virginia, for example, driving more than twenty miles per hour over the speed limit or driving eighty miles per hour or more on any road is considered reckless driving). Below are some other common examples of reckless driving:

  • Failing to adhere to stop signs, traffic lights, or other signage
  • Swerving or erratically driving into oncoming traffic
  • Driving onto sidewalks, curbs, or other areas not intended for traffic
  • Weaving, tailgating, or dangerous driving that puts other drivers at risk

Reckless driving is often a misdemeanor criminal offense and can carry a number of consequences, including arrests, suspensions of licenses, substantial fines, or even impoundment of your vehicle. Each state is different, so be sure to read up on your state’s rules.

Careless driving

Whereas reckless driving is often a criminal offense, careless driving is generally considered a civil citation. While the former involves a blatant disregard for safety—and can include serious violations—the latter generally revolves around driving in a careless way. Many times, careless driving may even be an oversight on behalf of the driver. Regardless, here a few examples:

  • Ignoring or forgetting to use turn signals
  • Not following traffic signs
  • Illegal or unsafe lane changes

While careless driving may not be considered a criminal offense, drivers may still be dealt a fine or may be ordered to carry out community service or attend driving school.


Are there any differences between driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI)? It depends on the state you’re driving in. A DUI can mean driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but it can also include over-the-counter drugs. While similar, a DWI may refer to a situation in which an individual is driving while intoxicated or driving while impaired.

Like most examples, it’s important to know your state laws. For example, in many states, it’s illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. However, in other states such as Utah, the BAC limit is 0.05%. Similarly, some states may treat drunk driving as a misdemeanor, while in others, repeat offense may result in a felony charge. Finally, some states may even charge drivers with a DUI or DWI even if the vehicle isn’t moving.

Texting while driving/distracted driving

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving was responsible for 2,841 lives in 2018. It’s difficult to attribute every one of those deaths to cell phone usage, but the NHTSA considered texting “the most alarming distraction” of the broad category. Nearly all fifty states have banned texting and driving for all drivers, while many have banned hand-held phone conversations.

Like most violations, the price of a ticket for texting and driving varies depending on the sates. For example, in Maryland, a texting violation is a misdemeanor and carries up to $500 in fines.

Failure to yield/stop

In many states, failing to yield right-of-way can result in reckless driving. Of course, this involves a situation if a driver ignores a speed light, stop sign, or yield sign. However, these situations can also occur if individuals ignore another driver who has the right-of-way. Generally, tickets are issued following an accident in which a failure to yield results in a collision. While these types of citations are generally non-criminal in nature, they can result in fines or more.

Improper turn

Improper turns are commonly issued tickets that generally involve motorists failing to abide by normal traffic laws. While improper turns can encompass numerous situations, they generally occur when drivers turn right from the center or left lane or left from the center or right lane. Put simply, these violations can be easily avoided if drivers turn from the appropriate turn lane, following the stated traffic signage or direction.

Seatbelt violation

It may be hard to believe now, but seatbelts weren’t mandatory in new United States vehicles until 1968. While it’s absolutely recommended for all passengers to properly wear their seatbelts, not all states consider seatbelt violations a primary enforcement (meaning that a police officer may stop and ticket a driver). Instead, in 15 states, seat belt law is a secondary offense, meaning that drivers can’t be pulled over for the sole offense of not wearing one. Fines vary widely, as well, running drivers between $10 and $200.

Driving without a license

Your driver’s license is more than just your ID; it’s a critical component of your ability to drive. Driving without a license—or driving with a suspended or revoked one—is illegal in every state. And while leaving your house without your ID may be a careless lapse of memory, getting caught while driving without a valid driver’s license may result in major fines or worse.

Penalties vary greatly by state, but let’s use our home state Virginia as an example. According to NOLO:

Unlicensed driving is a class 2 misdemeanor, carrying a fine of up to $1,000 and a maximum six months in jail. A second offense is a class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, a maximum $2,500 fine, and vehicle impoundment. The vehicle will be impounded until the driver obtains a valid driver’s license (maximum three days). However, vehicle impoundment does not apply minor drivers or to drivers whose licenses have been expired for less than one year. The driver will also receive three demerit points and may be prohibited from obtaining a license for up to 90 days.

Driving without insurance

Aside from New Hampshire and Virginia (in VA you’ll be required to pay a $500 fee every year for being uninsured), every state—including the District of Columbia—requires drivers to carry car insurance. And in most states, you’ll be hit with a hefty fine for your first offense of driving without insurance. For example, Texas requires uninsured drivers to pay between $175 and $350 for a first offense. Other states like Florida suspend driver’s licenses and require fees to have them restored. It’s even worse if you’re in an accident without insurance, as the liability—and costs associated with any injuries or property damage—may be entirely your responsibility.

Will I see an impact on my insurance premium?

Tickets and traffic violations will usually affect your premium rate, but how much impact depends on the offense. For example, a DUI ticket will have a much larger impact than something like a ticket for an improper turn. But why does your insurance care—what’s the big deal about a speeding ticket? It all comes down to risk. The more tickets and violations you have on your record, the riskier your insurance company will consider you to insure.

Increases in your premiums may not be reflected until your auto insurance renewal date. If you fail to report a violation or ticket to your insurance company, they may not notice right away. But be warned, they will eventually, even if your violation happened out-of-state. Most states have an established network to share records, so being outside your home state’s lines doesn’t mean your insurance provider won’t know about the offense. That’s why it’s important to inform your provider of any accidents, tickets, or traffic violations—whether caused by you or another driver—as soon as possible.

How long will a traffic violation stay on my insurance record?

Different violations can carry consequences that can linger on your record for months or years. A speeding ticket, for example, will usually stay on your insurance record anywhere from one to three years (depending on what state you live in). A DUI violation, however, will likely stay on your record for five or more years.

The type of violation you receive affects the severity of the effect. Like we mentioned above, reckless driving and driving under the influence carry some of the highest penalties. For example, a first offense DUI/DWI averages a 79% increase in car insurance rates, while reckless driving can drive a 73% jump, according to some data.

Beyond that, your degree of fault (unless you’re driving in a “no-fault” state) and the value of the related insurance claim also impact both your chances of a premium rise and the amount of time the violations stays on your record.

Any of these violations will also most likely mean losing any good driver discounts you might have had before the incident. But nothing is forever! A great time to shop for car insurance is when you’ve had a ticket or violation finally drop off your record. You can start with a clean slate and requalify for Safe Driver Discounts you used to have.

How to improve your rate if you received a ticket

There are a few options available to you to improve your rate. Some of these are:

Ultimately, practicing safe, smart driving habits may be the best way to prevent tickets and violations. If you keep your record clean moving forward, your rate should stay the same until your violations are removed. At Elephant Insurance, we’re committed to rewarding our customers with discounts that celebrate safe driving. Get a quote with us to make sure you’re covered when you need it most.

This article is intended for informational purposes only. It does not replace or modify the information contained in your insurance policy and may not reflect the official policies of Elephant Insurance or current developments.

Article last updated on June 25th, 2023 at 6:52 pm

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