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Why is a seat belt ticket affecting my rates?


Question: I’m looking for a new car insurance provider because my six-month premium went up $160 with my current insurer due to two seat belt tickets I received in Florida. Can you tell me why this is when there are no points for this offense? I have had a clean driving record for 21 years except for these two tickets. I feel it's unfair to increase my rates this much over seat belt tickets. 

Answer: It’s true that many auto insurance companies will only rate against traffic offenses that have points associated with them (in states that have a points system), since that typically categorize such an infraction as a moving violation; however, there are other auto insurers will also rate on non-point violations. (See “Tickets that don’t affect your car insurance rates”)

The typical reason why some insurers will rate on certain traffic infractions (that don’t have motor vehicle points associated with them but still show upon driving record) is because their underwriters have determined that these offenses show motorists to be a higher risk. 

It’s likely that your insurer’s underwriters have established that seat belt violations lead to more or higher claims.

Their statistics probably show that motorists (and passengers) that don’t wear their seat belt cause higher or more claims to be paid out (through bodily injury liability, personal injury protection, uninsured/underinsured motorist or medical payments) due to injuries being more serious in motorists that didn’t buckle up.

Thus, while a seat belt violation that comes with a small fine and no points may seem insignificant to you, it can be important to certain car insurance companies because their underwriters, who help determine the rating system, says it is. 

In your case, it doesn’t help that you have two tickets for the same offense.  If you received just one ticket, your auto insurer may have thought that it was a fluke that you weren’t wear your seat belt, but two tickets in a short period of time for the same offense tends to be seen as a pattern of behavior to car insurance companies.

The good news is that you should be able to find cheaper car insurance rates. (See “3 ways to save big money on car insurance”)

Insurance companies rating systems vary from one insurance carrier to the next, so while your current auto insurer may look at seat belt violations quite harshly – and raise your premium by over $300 a year -- other insurers will look at these infractions on your driving record and barely raise your base rates, if they do at all. 

Looking for a new auto insurance provider is the right thing to do.  By doing some comparison shopping for car insurance, you should be able to find an insurance company that doesn’t care as much about your seat belt tickets as your current one, especially if in your state the offense isn’t assigned points on your license or considered a moving violation like Florida does.  

You could end up saving hundreds, if not thousands a year on your car insurance premium. (See “Pocket $1,102 just by shopping around”)

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