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Two tickets and a wreck: What to expect


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Question:  Within the last year, I received two traffic tickets and was at-fault for an auto accident.   What do you think will happen with my license (I’m in California)?  And what about my car insurance? Do you think these things will increase my rates?

Answer: In general, multiple tickets and accidents will cause your auto insurance rates to spike.  It doesn’t help that yours were in such a short period of time. It’s even possible that your current car insurance company will now consider you to be such a high-risk driver it will force you to look elsewhere for coverage by not renewing your policy.

Car insurance companies’ rating systems vary -- which is how there are competitive prices available to all types of drivers -- but your driving record is a major rating factors to all insurers.

Some auto insurance providers won’t raise your rates after a single minor traffic ticket, but simply take away any safe or good driver discounts you had. Other car insurance companies up your premiums by 10 to 20 percent (or more) after a first moving violation.  (See “Tickets that don’t raise your insurance rates”)

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Normally, a second ticket is frowned upon much more by auto insurers.  You’re starting to show a pattern of risky driving behavior and thus rates may go up as much as 40 percent for that second ticket.

Your car insurance costs could go up even more if you were convicted of a major violation, such as careless driving or a DUI, due to the riskier nature of the offense.  It’s pretty simple: The more of a risk you pose as a driver, the more you are going to pay in auto insurance premiums. (See “What a big ticket does to your car insurance”)

Now let’s add in your at-fault accident. One car accident on your record can affect rates by 10 percent to 40 percent. Add this to the rate hike for tickets and your rates could be increased considerably – and keep in mind that the surcharges you receive will continue for the next three to five years. 

Since surcharge schedules vary from one insurer to the next, you need to comparison shop to find the insurer that is priced the best for your particular rating factors.

If your auto insurance company will keep you, then maybe it will have the cheapest car insurance premiums, but it’s very possible that another insurer will instead.  Car insurance quotes for even high-risk drivers will differ by hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

For example, we compared quotes for a 35-year-old male in Oakland. With a clean driving record, the cheapest quote for liability coverage only was $604 a year. With two minor speeding tickets and an accident, the quotes ranged from $1,086 to $1,588 a year.

As for your driver’s license, it depends upon your state’s laws if your privileges will be suspended due to the multiple moving violations and accident on your record.  In California, drivers receive one point for at-fault collisions and minor traffic convictions.  For major traffic violations, such as reckless driving, hit-and-run or DUI, you receive two points. 

If you receive four points in 12 months or six points in 24 months, in California, then you’re considered a negligent operator by the state and lose your license. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) says this includes at least a six-month suspension and a full year of probation.  If you are worried about losing your license, contact the DMV to find out your point total. 

If you get another ticket, see if you are eligible to take a defense driving course to keep the ticket and points off your driving record, which may keep the offense unknown to your insurance company.

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