February 9, 2020

How Long Do Traffic Tickets Stay on Your Record


Getting a traffic ticket has consequences. It affects your driving record and the cost of your auto insurance. But there are ways to minimize the impact. Read on to learn your options.

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Traffic tickets come in two types:

  • Moving violations for things like speeding, running red lights, and reckless driving
  • Non-moving violations for things like parking violations

Only moving violations stay on your record. In most states, those can remain on your record for 1-3 years depending on the state and type of offense. More serious traffic offenses can last 5-7 years, while misdemeanor or felony driving charges usually stay on your record even longer.

States also assign points to your driver's license for certain offenses like speeding. On average, points remain on your record for 2 years and can increase the cost of your auto insurance.

Got more questions about traffic tickets? Find the answers in our guide.

Will My Insurance Go Up After a Traffic Ticket?

Insurers apply a rate increase in the form of a surcharge for moving violations. For example, the average auto insurance increase after a speeding ticket is 26%.

Non-moving violations do not impact auto insurance rates. Some insurers also forgive first-time moving traffic offenses.

Auto insurance companies look at your driving history as far back as seven years when determining your insurance rate.

How much a traffic violation increases your policy varies by insurer. For example, some companies might not apply a surcharge for a minor offense, while others might up your rate by 10% or more.

Traffic violations that result in the biggest increase in car insurance rates are:

  • Speeding
  • Reckless or dangerous driving
  • Driving under the influence

With any of these violations, you can expect to pay thousands more in car insurance.

How long does a speeding ticket stay on your record?
Each state has its own rules, but the nationwide average for a speeding ticket remaining on your record is 3 years.

Do Traffic Tickets Ever Go Away?

Almost all states will remove certain traffic tickets from your driving record if you agree to attend traffic school. You'll need to pay a fee to enroll.

Traffic school is a 6-8 hour safety course that takes place in a classroom setting. Most states require in-person attendance, but some provide an online course. Attending traffic school prevents your car insurance rates from increasing due to the driving offense.

This is not an option if you already attended a session within a certain number of months.

How Can I Get a Traffic Violation Off My Record?

You can request that your state expunge the traffic violation from your driving record. In some states, this option is available if:

  • You're a first-time offender.
  • You've maintained a clean record since receiving the citation.
  • You complete a state-approved driver improvement course.
  • It's a non-moving offense.
  • You have no pending criminal charges.
  • Your license was not suspended or revoked.

Usually, a certain period of time must pass before you can file the request. It's also a bit of a process. Typically, you'll need to:

  • Complete a request form.
  • Confirm you meet the requirement for expungement.
  • Pay the required fee.
  • Get a review of your expungement request by your state's department of motor vehicles (DMV).
  • Obtain a written decision from your DMV.

Check with your DMV to see if expungement of traffic violations from your driving record is allowed in your state. A traffic ticket attorney can assist you with the process for expunging a traffic offense from your driving record.

What Happens When You Get a Traffic Ticket in Another State

If you get an out-of-state ticket for a moving violation, your home state's penalty laws may apply if it is part of the Driver License Compact (DLC).

The DLC is a one driver, one license, one record compact that allows states to share licensing information and convictions with other states. Most U.S. states participate in the DLC.

If the state where you receive your citation does participate and your license is suspended or revoked there, the same punishment will apply in your home state.

Additionally, states may belong to the Non-Resident Violators Compact (NRVC). Under the compact, your home state can suspend your license if you fail to pay citations received in other states.

How Much Does a Traffic Ticket Cost?

You may pay anywhere from $150 to $2,000 for your citation. The cost depends on the type of violation and the laws of the state where the infraction occurred.

Speeding tickets are the most common. In some states, a first-time speeding offense can carry a fine of up to $1,000, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Typically, you'll pay from $50 to $2,500.

States with the most expensive fine for speeding tickets are:

  • Illinois and Virginia, with a $2,500 maximum
  • Georgia and Nevada, with a $2,000 maximum

States with the least expensive fine for speeding tickets are:

  • Tennessee, with a $50 maximum
  • Colorado, Idaho, and Kentucky, with a $100 maximum

Here are examples of fines for other types of traffic violations:
  • Illegally using the carpool lane: Between $400 and $1,000
  • Not stopping when a school bus is flashing its red lights: Between $150 and $300 for a first offense, and from $300 to $500 for a second offense
  • Leaving the scene of an accident you're involved in: From $500 and $1,000, or if a death resulted, from $1,000 to $100,000
  • Eluding or evading a police officer: Between $500 and $5,000
  • Unauthorized parking in a handicapped spot: Ranges from $250 to $450
  • Making an illegal U-turn: Starts at $125

What Are the Consequences of a Traffic Ticket?

Besides a fine, getting a citation may result in one or more of the following consequences:

  • Your vehicle being towed and impounded
  • A hefty fine
  • Violation points against your driver's license, which go on your driving record
  • A surcharge on your auto insurance rate
  • Court appearance
  • Driver's license suspended or revoked
  • Jail time
  • Requirement to attend traffic school or driver's training

The penalty will depend on the seriousness of the offense. You can lose your license if you get too many points on it from moving violations within a certain time frame.

Speeding is the most common moving violation in the U.S. One in every six drivers will be cited for speeding each year. Those between the ages of 17 and 24 receive the most speeding citations.

What Should I Do If I Get a Traffic Ticket?

If you get a traffic ticket, you should be on it immediately. Here's how:

Pay the fine on time
Some states require the fine to be paid at a mandatory court hearing. In other states, you can pay the fine by mail. Keep in mind that by paying the ticket, you are essentially pleading guilty.

Fight the ticket in court
You have the right to contest the violation. Oftentimes, judges will dismiss the ticket or reduce the fine. Some reasons to try contesting the offense are:

  • You think the ticket was issued unfairly.
  • You have solid evidence to prove the violation is wrong.
  • There is an error on the citation.
  • There were extenuating circumstances involved.
  • The police officer did not have a clear view or accurate perception of the alleged violation.

Hire a lawyer
For more serious traffic violations, you may need to hire a lawyer. The court will appoint one for you if you are unable to afford your own attorney.

For non-moving violations, you must correct the issue within a certain amount of time or pay a fine. If you fail to take action, the matter is handled in court. Failure to appear in court can lead to your license being suspended or a warrant issued for your arrest.

Where to Find Cheap Car Insurance After a Traffic Ticket

If you receive a traffic ticket, three things might happen with your car insurance:

  1. The ticket goes on your insurance record.
  2. Your policy premium goes up.
  3. Your auto insurance company cancels or does not renew your policy.

When that happens, it's time to look for a car insurance company with the lowest surcharge for a traffic violation.

The cheapest auto insurance companies for drivers with traffic tickets are:

  • Farmers
  • Nationwide
  • Liberty Mutual
  • State Farm
  • GEICO
  • The General

Look for insurers with safe defensive driving programs. You can rebuild your driving record and save on your insurance premium.

Bottom Line

When you get a traffic ticket, it changes your driving record and your insurance rate. Some traffic offenses remain on your record for 3 years or more.

Rather than pay higher insurance rates during those years, consider your options. You can fight the violation before it goes on your record or try to get it expunged.

When a traffic ticket goes on your record, get quotes for the best auto insurance rate. Just because you got a violation doesn't mean you have to pay high car insurance premiums.

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