You may have heard that your driving record has an impact on car insurance rates. While this is true, a blanket statement such as this does not indicate the nuances of just how your driving record impacts car insurance premiums. Does a speeding ticket automatically double your insurance rates? Does an at-fault accident mean you will be pay more for car insurance for a long period of time? How long does a black mark affect your rates? These are all questions for which there is no standard answer, because the answer depends on your particular circumstances. For every individual, there are different consequences for each type of driving offense.

However, it is possible to make some general statements within the framework of penalties usually applied to someone who has a driving infraction. While these generalities may not perfectly describe your individual case, they are good guidelines for determining a possible range of consequences for each type of driving issue.

1) Speeding Tickets

The impact a speeding ticket has on your auto insurance rates is one of the most difficult things to predict, because how much a speeding ticket hurts you depends greatly on several factors. First, if this is your first ticket, you can generally expect it to have less of an impact than if you have gotten three or four in the space of a year. How close together you get speeding tickets will certainly determine how much your car insurance rates go up, because insurance companies view several tickets in close succession as evidence of a pattern of reckless driving, rather than a single, isolated incident. On the other hand, if you have a single speeding ticket in five years, your insurance rates may not be impacted at all, as many insurance companies allow one speeding ticket without a rate increase.

2) How fast were you going?

All speeding tickets are not created equally. If you were doing 65 in a 55 mile per hour zone and this is your first ticket, you usually have little to worry about in terms of car insurance rate increases. On the other hand, if you were doing 90, it is likely that your insurance is going to go up. This is because the insurance company looks at the two situations as different types of actions. 65 is careless speeding; 90 is reckless driving. You are far more likely to cause a serious accident at 90 than at 65, and the car insurance company will take this into account when assessing a rate increase.

3) Other types of tickets

Speeding tickets are not the only driving infractions for which you can be cited. Parking tickets generally have no impact on your insurance rates as they are not “moving violations” and are not reported to the state’s database. On the other hand, “reckless driving,” which can describe any number of activities from speeding in a school zone to weaving in and out of high-speed traffic, will usually get an insurance company’s attention quickly. When you are cited for a ticket other than speeding, you might want to talk to your insurance company and see how they view the ticket. If it means a rate increase, you might talk to the judge about changing the charge to simple speeding or another violation. Even if you had to pay a larger fine, it might be worth it if you avoided an automobile insurance rate increase.

4) How long has it been since your last violation?

This will probably have one of the largest impacts on whether your insurance rates go up. Several violations within a three-year period, even if they are small ones, constitute a pattern of behavior that may mean a rate increase or even cancellation. If you do get a ticket, be sure it is your last one for awhile.

5) At-fault accidents

Your driving record includes your accidents as well as your tickets. If you have one small at-fault accident, your rates may not increase significantly or at all. Many companies now offer “accident forgiveness,” which means that if your first at-fault accident does not exceed a certain dollar amount, your rates will not go up. You can also pay cash for the damages in a small accident, thereby avoiding a claim with your insurance company. However, if your accident costs the insurance company a great deal of money, you are likely to see a rate increase, or even a possible cancellation.

Many factors affect your driving record, which is kept on file at your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. You can obtain a copy of your record by writing your state’s DMV and requesting one for a small fee. This is the same information that your insurance company will use to determine your rates, so be sure the information is accurate and discuss options with your current company or any new companies you are considering for policy coverage.