NEW YORK (MainStreet) As Ash Canda drove in from New Jersey to Manhattan through the Lincoln Tunnel, he was stopped by a police officer for holding a mobile device in his hand.
"I was using my cell phone to find my way to my hotel room in the Times Square area," said Cannda who was visiting the Big Apple with friends from San Francisco.
Although Canda wasn't cited, he sat in the car for half an hour while the officer processed his out of state driver's license.
"I explained that normally I'd have a holster but this is a rental car," Canda said. "I was holding my phone as a navigation device. The last time I got a moving violation my car insurance increased 20%."
Ash is one of many Americans who are finding that a minor traffic violation can lead to 21% higher car insurance costs, according to a new report.
Minor violations include driving 1 to 15 miles per hour over the legal limit.
"Having points on a license from minor infractions increases the likelihood that a driver will file a future claim with his or her car insurance company," said Laura Adams, senior insurance analyst with Bankrate. "Due to that potential increased risk, insurers raise rates to compensate."
An InsuranceQuotes.com study found that a citation for reckless driving can lead to car insurance costs rising by 82%.
"Driving history is just one of many variables, including age, gender, credit and vehicle type that carriers use to set car insurance rates," Adams told MainStreet.
The study further found that the most expensive violation is driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol, cannabis or prescription pills, which can lead to insurance increasing by 93%.
"The laws are basically the same for alcohol and drugs," said Michael Chazukow, outreach director with National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. "You cannot drive under the influence of alcohol or cannabis. Law enforcement receives training as drug recognition experts to identify if someone is too intoxicated to drive. This training will be expanded to more officers as additional detection methods are developed."
Other transgressions that can increase insurance premiums include 19% for following another car too closely, 19% for not signaling a turn, 18% for using a car pool lane without passengers and 5% for not wearing a seat belt.
With the average annual car insurance expense in the U.S. at $797.44, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), it is worth it to buckle up. But if not, there is a way out once a police officer slaps you with a ticket.
"Completing a traffic safety course is the best way to erase points on your license," Adams said.
"You may also contest a ticket in traffic court or hire an attorney to fight it on your behalf."
But then again, a lawyer's hourly rate is pretty pricey and switching insurers is no guarantee either.
"Insurers factor your driving history differently," said Adams. "Some may be more lenient than others. Therefore, it's wise to shop around and compare rates to make sure that you aren't over paying for car insurance."
Curious drivers can visit this site for a traffic ticket calculator that shows typical rate increases for 17 different kinds of violations.
--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet