Posted on: 12 August 2016Share
Getting a traffic ticket is nothing to scoff at. It can mar your perfect driving record, incur a hefty fine and send your auto insurance rates soaring. If you have received a traffic ticket for a driving offense, you typically have two choices: accept the responsibility and take the consequences, or hire an attorney to fight the case. Before you hire an attorney to defend your traffic violation, consider the actual consequences of your violation and how that will impact your driving record and driving privileges or your insurance rates. In some instances, simply paying the fine may be the better choice.
What is a traffic violation?
When you violate either the moving or parking laws with your vehicle, you have committed a traffic violation. This holds true even if you are on a rural highway and there is no other traffic on the road. You do not need to be in traffic to be charged with a traffic violation. There are many traffic violations, but the most common are as follows:
- Driving Under the Influence – This may be called DUI or DWI or other similar designation, depending on the state you are stopped in.
- Reckless Driving – Some states, such as Maine, refer to reckless driving as driving to endanger. Reckless driving is generally defined as knowingly or deliberately operating a motor vehicle in an unsafe manner without regard for the safety of others.
- Careless Driving – Careless driving is similar to reckless driving, but it refers to driving in a careless or dangerous way without intent. For example, you may be charged with careless driving if you forget to use your turn signal before switching lanes.
- Speeding – Driving more than a specific number of miles per hour over the speed limit may be classified as reckless driving or criminal speeding instead of a speeding violation. For example, in the state of Maine, if you are caught driving more than 30 mph over the posted speed limit, your charge will be criminal speeding.
- Texting While Driving – Nearly all U.S. states ban texting and/or the use of cell phones while driving under some conditions. This ban is determined by the state and can vary. Check your state's cell phone and texting regulations to be sure you understand the laws you must follow.
- Running a Stop Sign or Stop Light
- Parking Violations
How much is the fine?
The fine associated with a traffic offense depends on the severity of the offense, and it may depend on whether you are a repeat offender or if it is your first traffic offense. For example, the fine for a speeding ticket depends on the mph over the posted limit you are traveling and/or whether it is your first or repeat offense. Likewise, the consequences of an DUI conviction increases in severity, depending on if you are a first offender or a repeat offender. It can lead to jail time and loss of your license.
How will it affect your insurance rates?
Some traffic offenses, such as a simple parking ticket, may not affect your insurance rates, unless you earn a specific number of offenses. However, other offenses, such as DUI will have an immediate impact on your auto insurance premiums. According to Bankrate, you can expect a 93 percent increase in your insurance premium after a conviction for driving under the influence. Reckless driving will likely earn you an average increase on your insurance premium of 82 percent, with a speeding ticket bumping your rates anywhere from 21 to 30 percent, depending on the number of mph over the limit you were driving. Running a red light will raise your insurance premiums by approximately 20 percent.
How will it affect your driving record and driver's license?
Traffic violations will be included in your driving record and may cause problems if you apply for a job where driving a company vehicle is part of your regular duties. You will also be subject to earning points on your driving license for each violation. While there may be no consequences for the initial addition of points, they are cumulative and can cause a problem later. Once you reach a specified limit, you can have your license revoked to due to the points.
If you have received a routine traffic ticket for a parking violation or a speeding ticket for speeding a few miles over the limit, unless you can prove that you did not make the violation, you may be better off paying the fine without involving an attorney or disputing the charge. However, if the violation is more serious and will severely impact your driving record, insurance premiums and/or threaten a loss of your license, hiring a criminal attorney or personal injury lawyer to represent you in court may be your best alternative.