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The ticket is paid but pain continues


Question: My friend received a couple of citations (driving 55 in a 35 and 55 in a 25) and thinks they will affect his license and insurance if he just pays the fines. I haven’t really thought about this.  What could happen to his license, just points or what?  How would his car insurance be affected?  I’m 20 and live in Pennsylvania.

Answer:  Your friend is right.  After being convicted of a traffic offense there can be repercussions from both the state and car insurance company that last for years. 

If you don't contest a ticket, but just pay the fine, you're normally convicted of the offense.  You may walk away thinking it’s all over, but behind the scenes the court informs the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) of the conviction.  The DMV then places it on your driving record.

If your state assigns points -- not all do -- then points will also be assigned for your moving violation.  The severity of your offense determines how many points you’ll receive according to your state’s point system.  Thus, a reckless driving ticket will be assessed more points than a ticket for speeding 5 mph over the limit.

The number of points assigned to a violation differs from one state to another, as do the total number of points it takes for the state to take action against you or your license. States that don’t have a point system sanction drivers according to the type of traffic infraction they are convicted of and/or the number of traffic infractions on their record.

Effect on license

Pennsylvania’s points system is complex and assigns between two and five points to a license, depending upon the violation.  For example, points for exceeding the maximum speed limit are as follows:

  • Two points - 6 to 10 mph over
  • Three points – 11 to 15 mph over
  • Four points – 16 to 25 mph over
  • Five points – 26 to 30 mph over
  • Five points – 31 mph and beyond (considered excessive speeding and driver must attend hearing)

Pennsylvania’s system takes action against drivers who reach six points. 

  • A first accumulation results in being required to take a special written exam.
  • A second accumulation of six points requires the driver to attend a hearing where the individual can get a 15-day suspension or be ordered to take an on-road exam. 
  • A third or subsequent time of reaching six point results in the driver attending a hearing to determine if a 30-day license suspension should be initiated.

Accumulating 11 points or more can get a driver an automatic license suspension of between  five days per point and one year.

If convicted of the speeding tickets (for 20 and 30 over), your friend will end up with nine points and he’ll be mandated by the state to take the special exam.  If he passes it, two points will be removed from his record.

Insurance rates will rise

Some car insurance companies will overlook one minor traffic violation and not raise rates.  However, if two moving violations in a short period of time show up on your driving record, your car insurance company is going to sit up and take notice.  This pattern of behavior gives the appearance that you’ve become a risky driver. 

In your friend’s case, his car insurance company will assign insurance points, different than DMV points, to his speeding offenses. From this point total, a surcharge (an extra charge that raises rates) will be determined.

Your friend will also lose any safe driver discount he may have had for maintaining a clean record up to this point. 

As an example, say he was paying $2,400 annually for his car insurance policy.  With the loss of a good driver discount and a surcharge of 20 percent for the speeding offense he could end up paying over $3,450 a year – and surcharges generally last for at least three years.

This is why it’s important to keep violations off your driving record (or better yet don’t do anything to get ticketed for).  But if it happens, there are ways to try and save some.  The main one is to compare car insurance rates with multiple car insurance companies. 

Rating systems, surcharges and discounts all vary greatly depending upon the car insurance carrier, so you may save hundreds of dollars by shopping around. 

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