September 27, 2019

Citation vs Ticket

Read more about Car Insurance

What does it mean when a cop gives you a citation? The same as a ticket—you broke a traffic law. Learn if they go on your record and what to do if you get one.

Types of Citations

Traffic tickets or citations are categorized by the seriousness of the violation. They are, from least to most severe:

This is what everyone hopes for when getting pulled over by police. It means you are not being penalized for the traffic law you broke.

Minor Violations
These include "non-moving" violations such as:

  • Parking tickets
  • Seat belt violations
  • Safety equipment issues

Minor violations can also include driving violations. They are at the discretion of the police officer, depending on the situation and location of the violation.

Parking tickets do not have any impact on insurance rates. Any violation that you receive while operating a moving vehicle can cause your rates to increase.

Non-Criminal Major Violations
These are most "moving" violations, including:

  • Speeding
  • Running a red light
  • Driving over the center line
  • Driving illegally on the shoulder

Criminal Violations
These are serious incidents of law-breaking and/or endangering others. Examples include:

  • DUIs
  • Driving without insurance or without a valid license
  • Driving recklessly

Major traffic violations will result in points against your MVR (Motor Vehicle Record). The most severe violations result in the greatest number of points.

Currently, 41 states use the driver violation points system.

MVR points are different than the points assigned by your insurance company. Your company will run your MVRs, but they have their system to determine how much of an impact your violation will have on insurance premiums.

What to Do After You Get a Citation

How you respond depends on the type of citation you receive. But whatever is required, it's always best to follow the law. Failing to act can result in much more serious problems than the initial violation.

Heed the Warning
If you do get a warning, which is most likely the case if you have faulty equipment (like a dead taillight), you'll need to fix this as soon as possible.

It may also be a conditional citation, which means you'll have to prove that you've fixed the issue to avoid a real ticket.

Pay the Fine
Most citations for both moving and non-moving violations will result in a fine. The easiest option is to simply pay and move on—while avoiding the same mistake in the future. You could also opt to contest the citation in court.

This will require you to physically appear in court without any guarantee of winning. Your citation may be reversed. But police officers often have extensive documentation and recordings of their actions, which can be difficult to overcome.

Court Hearing for Criminal Violations
If you receive a court summon, you'll need to appear at court on the specified day. There, you can choose to plead guilty or not guilty, and can select an attorney to represent you.

Criminal violations can result in a suspended license, which will have a greater impact than just higher insurance premiums.

How Will a Citation Affect Your Insurance?

Traffic violations can affect your rates for 3-5 years. The exact amount of time varies based on your insurance company. The effect of your citation will also vary based on several different factors.

Your Risk Profile
This is an unofficial term that compares you with the rest of the overall driving population. For example, if you are 18 and have two speeding tickets, you'll be considered more of a risk than a 50-year-old with a seat belt violation.

Severity of the Violation
Minor violations may not result in any premium increase. But speeding tickets and other major or criminal violations certainly will.

Expect a 20% bump in premiums for a speeding ticket—the exact number will depend on the specific circumstances. A more serious violation like a DUI can result in an 80% increase or higher. Some companies may also not renew a driver with a DUI/DWI.

Violations don't just result in premium increases—you may also lose existing discounts. For example, if you currently have a safe driving discount, this could be taken away after receiving a citation. That will raise your rates even further.

What You Can Do

There are a few things you can do to offset the increased cost of your auto insurance. Depending on your own situation, some of these might not be as practical as others.

Take a Defensive Driver Course
This might actually be required if your violation is severe enough (like reckless driving). Even if it's not required, it's still a great idea to enroll.

Many insurance companies offer a 10% discount if you show that you've successfully completed one of these courses. While the discount won't be high enough to offset the increased premium by itself, each dollar counts.

You'll also gain the further benefit of learning how to drive defensively, safely, and responsibly. This will greatly reduce your chances of receiving further citations.

Some states offer license point reduction for offenses like speeding if you take an approved Defensive Driver course. Check with your state DMV to see if this option is available to you.

Raise Your Deductibles
Deductibles and premium have an inverse affect: the lower the deductible you have, the higher your premiums. The same is also true in reverse—the higher your deductible, the lower your premiums.

If you currently have a $100 or a $250 deductible, raising your deductibles on both Comprehensive and Collision could offset most or all of the increase in premium from your citation.

However, if you have an accident, you won't receive as much claim money from your insurance company.

Drop Full Coverage
Full coverage on your car consists of both Comprehensive and Collision coverage. These coverages provide money for damages to your own vehicle in the event of an accident. They are also two of the most expensive parts of your policy.

Consider dropping full coverage if you:

  • Have a vehicle that's older than 6 or 7 years
  • Have access to a replacement car if yours gets totaled in an accident
  • Can afford the cost of buying a replacement vehicle

If you have a loan or a lease on your car, you likely won't be able to drop full coverage. The financing company usually requires people to have full coverage on their cars as part of the financing agreement.

If you are wary of dropping full coverage, consider dropping just Collision. It's usually more expensive than Comprehensive.

By dropping Collision, you would still have coverage for things like fire, theft, wind, and hail. But you would be on your own if you crash into another car or solid object (like a telephone pole or building).

Bottom Line

A traffic citation is the same thing as a traffic ticket. You get citations when you commit a traffic violation.

Citations will almost always have an impact on your insurance premiums, but the exact amount will depend on many factors, including the severity of the violation.

Defensive driving courses can help offset the increased cost of your insurance, as well as better prepare you to avoid receiving traffic violations in the future.

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