Most people think that the most expensive part of a traffic ticket or moving vehicle violation is the fine itself, and while this can be painfully expensive in some legal jurisdictions, it is nevertheless not the most expensive part. The most expensive part hits you months after the ticket, and sticks around for 3 to 5 (to even 10) years: the hike on your insurance premiums!Insurance is “risk management;” it manages your risk of catastrophic damage to your vehicle, your person, or other persons or vehicles involved in any kind of accident. Insurance companies are in the “risk management” business: for a certain fee, they’ll cover you in the event you damage something or someone. But how likely you are to cost them money determines how much they charge you. And to determine how much to charge you, they look primarily at your driving record. So it is in your financial interests to keep your driving record as clear as possible. But most of us get pulled over at some point, and we’re faced with getting a ticket and seeing points added to our license which will inflate our premiums. So what can you do to minimize this harm?Be Hopeful. While there will always be exceptions to the rule, most officers don’t have to give you a ticket when they pull you over. Part of what determines whether you take a warning or a ticket is your demeanor when pulled over, and being hopeful is a great first step to being polite.
Be Polite. We forget to think about this, but the boys [and girls] in blue put their lives on the line everytime they stop someone. They don’t know if the next call they stop will have an irate man with a pistol in the glove-box, but they are there to enforce the laws and keep the general populace — including you — safe. So show them some respect.
Be Honest. I got out of a ticket the other day (going 46 in at 30 at 10pm) because when I was stopped, I told the cop that I didn’t realize I was speeding, but I wasn’t thinking about it either, since we had just moved back to town and I was just cruising around on my way to the store enjoying being back in town.
Be Cooperative. If, after being hopeful, polite, and honest, you still get a ticket — what then? Be cooperative. Being non-cooperative does not help you, and could lead to further fines. When presented with the ticket, sign it! Signing a traffic ticket is not an admission of guilt, and the ticket could still be fought.
Get Representation. Although seemingly expensive, hiring an attorney at $400/hour to fight your ticket could still save you over $1,000: one ticket can raise your premiums $50 to $150/year, and that inflated premium can stay on your records for years! The advice of a competent lawyer can effectively remove the points from the charge (and sometimes get the charge dismissed completely!) Of course, if you can’t afford that, there are other legal options. Following these steps will minimize the odds of you getting at ticket. But please, don’t let any of these steps serve to legitimize bad driving. Leave early, allow plenty of time for traffic, delays, and other issues like weather conditions. The best way to keep your premiums down is to actually drive safely everytime.