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How much unsafe driving could increase auto insurance

January 10, 2017
Unsafe driving can lead to fines, higher insurance rates or worse.

Police officers are always on the lookout to catch drivers speeding, drinking or otherwise endangering others. If caught, jail time is a distinct possibility, but the more likely outcome is a traffic ticket. This usually includes a fine as well as something that could prove just as expensive in the future:  a mark on your auto insurance record.

Just how much do you stand to lose when being caught in the act of unsafe driving? According to research from personal finance site NerdWallet, it varies considerably based on the exact offense, your insurance and the state you're driving through. What they found serves as a strong warning for careless drivers.

Speeding tickets

A single speeding ticket is often an inconvenience to pay, but can have serious repercussions when it comes to auto insurance rates. On average, Nerdwallet found that just one speed infraction raised insurance premiums 14 percent per year on average, compared to the typical cost of insurance without any blemishes.

In some states, the average increase is much higher:  North Carolina drivers can expect to pay 62 percent more per year on auto insurance with just one speeding ticket on their record. These numbers were based on a speeding ticket issued for driving 11 to 15 miles per hour over the posted limit. Multiple speeding violations can bring higher fines, costly insurance, and even license suspension or jail time.

Driving under the influence

If you're caught behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, expect insurance premiums to skyrocket. According to Nerdwallet, a DUI adds, on average, 62 percent of a driver's original insurance premium to their annual amount. In several states, a DUI will cause auto insurance rates to double overnight. Once again, North Carolina boasts the toughest penalty—a DUI can raise the average annual premium from $872 to $4,077, a 368 percent increase.

A DUI charge is often treated much more harshly by insurers as well as the law. Insurance providers may cancel policies after a DUI in some states, while many will suspend an offender's drivers license after a single infraction. Drivers with a DUI may also be subject to various forms of rehabilitation for substance abuse. In any case, a DUI often stays on a driver's record for several years, making it difficult and expensive to secure insurance coverage.

No matter how steep or lenient the penalty, there is never an excuse for unsafe driving. The best way to keep rates low is to be a responsible driver each time you're behind the wheel.