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Violation matters, not time of day it occurred


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Question: For penalties on your license does it matter what time a ticket is received? What about to my car insurance company?

Answer: Penalties placed on you by the state for an accident, DUI, or other traffic violation don’t vary depending upon the time of day the incident occurred.  How dark it is at the time of an accident or violation (however major or minor) may be noted as a contributing factor, but it doesn’t change your penalty.

It’s the same fine and the same amount of motor vehicle demerit points assigned to your driving record no matter if the accident or violation happens at 1 a.m. or 1 p.m. 

If you’re a new, teenage driver who is not permitted to drive during certain hours and get caught doing so, then, depending upon your state laws, you may be ticketed for that offense or have sanctions placed against your driving privileges.

Tickets and your car insurance

If a traffic offense is going to affect your car insurance rates, it will be the same no matter when it happened.  Your car insurance company won’t surcharge you more if an accident occurs during the night or weekend -- even if insurers know the incident happened during a time more hazardous to drivers.

Surcharge schedules are part of the items car insurance providers file with the state insurance regulatory department, thus they are pretty much set in stone.  So, if you get a speeding ticket for 15 mph over the limit, the insurance company’s surcharge schedule will say your rates should be raised by a certain amount, such as 10 percent. But it varies by insurer, and sometimes one minor ticket is even ignored by the surcharge schedule.

But none of them considers the time of the offense.

Don’t drive against your policy’s exclusions

Your insurer can’t change your coverage benefits just because you crashed or were ticketed at 1 a.m.  However, your car insurance policy may state that you’re ineligible for certain coverage or benefits if you were in an accident and found to be driving under an exclusion in your policy.

For example, if you were street racing at 2 a.m. and crashed, some of your car insurance coverages may be denied if your policy specifically excludes benefits if you’re found to be illegally racing at the time of the accident. But it's the racing that got you in hot water, not the time it happened.

Also, many states allow alcohol exclusions in insurance policies with regards to medical coverage.  This may allow your car insurance or health insurance provider to deny medical claims for injuries you sustained in an accident when you were driving while intoxicated or under the influence (DWI or DUI).

Some states also stretch this exclusion to include being under the influence of drugs. For example, New York states that under most car insurance policies a person is ineligible for no-fault (personal injury protection) benefits if it’s found that the individual was driving while intoxicated or impaired by use of a drug that contributed to the accident.

A discount for daylight driving

The hours that you drive also could affect your ability to get a discount -- if you’re participating in a pay-as-you-drive (PAYD) program.  For instance, Progressive’s Snapshot tracks the hours that you drive and counts it against you if you regularly drive during the “risky” hours of midnight and 4 a.m. 

Since a DUI, accident or ticket can negatively affect your car insurance rates – a DUI up to 300 percent -- I recommend that you drive as responsibly as possible at all hours of the day. 

However, if you do get a ticket  on your driving record that your current car insurance provider uses to raise your premium, not all hope is lost for affordable car insurance rates. 

Every auto insurer rates drivers a little differently by weighing the rating factors – where you live, what you drive, your age, etc. – a little differently.  This means by using a car insurance estimator and comparing rates you may be able to save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a year by finding the insurer that rates best for your particular rating factors.

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