Editors' Pick: Originally published Jan. 27.
Sometimes, a driver's biggest savings behind the wheel can stem from a simple question: “How do you beat a speeding ticket?”
Even if you aren't “asking for a friend,” this particular question can end up saving you quite a bit of cash in the long run. However, it can also get you a whole lot of war stories from folks who've seen squad car lights illuminate behind them, looked down at their speedometer and noticed they're over the speed limit by more than a few digits.
“First file [an] appeal and go to court,” says Henry Stimpson, who runs a public communications and marketing firm in Boston that represents financial and insurance companies. “In one case, [the] cop didn’t show up, so I won by default. In two other cases, I said I was really sorry and wouldn’t do it again and was forgiven.”
As it turns out, taking Stimpson's advice is far better than doing nothing. Last year, insuranceQuotes.com and Quadrant Information Services calculated the effects of 17 common moving violations in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., using data from the largest carriers (representing 60% to 70% of market share) in each state/district. The study found that, on average, speeding 1 to 15 miles over the speed limit can result in a 20% increase in your premium if you don't fight it. Meanwhile, going 16 to 30 miles per hour over the limit can boost rates 28%, while speeds of more than 30 miles per hour over the speed limit increase rates by roughly 29%. Only driving while intoxicated (a 92% increase) and reckless driving (83%) incur greater penalties for insurance policyholders.
“A lot of people don't realize that speeding is as harmful to your driving record and insurance as it is,” Laura Adams, senior analyst for insurance information and pricing site insuranceQuotes.com, told us in 2015. “It's pretty serious. If you're speeding 1 to 15 miles over the speed limit, it's still raising your rates by an average of 21%.”
And that's the best-case scenario. Those averages are based on a 45-year-old married, employed woman with a clean driving record driving a 2012 sedan. That hypothetical driver has a bachelor’s degree, an excellent credit score and no lapses in coverage. And that final penalty is still just the average. If you live in North Carolina, where 25% of all drivers are considered “high risk” by the Insurance Information Institute industry group, speeding can make your premiums jump 48%. That's still a bargain compared to Illinois, where rates jump 103% after the first speeding infraction.
ARAG, a legal insurance company based in Des Moines, Iowa, notes that while there aren't many ways to “beat” a speeding ticket anymore, there are a whole lot of ways to keep one off your record. ARAG agrees with Stimpson's suggestion that you should let the court know that you're contesting the ticket. It also suggests that you or your attorney submit a written request to review the radar gun used by the officer who ticketed you to see if it's been properly calibrated. There's a narrow chance that your case can be dismissed if the equipment can't be produced or if the officer can't make the hearing.
If that doesn't work, get familiar with local traffic law and see if additional penalties apply if you were ticketed within a school or work zone. You'll have to provide some sort of evidence that you weren't in order to escape those penalties, so prepare to do some legwork. Barring that, however, the best course of action is to address issues before you're ticketed: check speed limit signs before getting caught, and put on your nicest face for the officer if you do get pulled over. If you try to argue your case to the officer, other ticketable offenses including not wearing a seat belt (which boosts insurance rates 5.6%) and not signaling (18.55%) can just pile onto your existing problems.
Meanwhile, failure to obey signals amounts to just an 18% increase on its own and may be what you end up with if the officer takes mercy on you. Often, that tends to be the case. The Insurance Information Institute notes that the average annual cost of auto insurance rose from $798 in 2011 to $815 in 2014. AAA notes that the average low-risk driver with a clean driving record for a policy with a $500 deductible for collision and a $100 deductible for comprehensive coverage paid $1,023, down from $1,029 in 2012.
“Auto insurance expenditures have remained relatively stable when compared to other life essentials, such as housing, food and health care,” said Dr. Robert Hartwig, economist and president of the Insurance Information Institue. “People are spending about the same for auto insurance as they did a few years ago, adjusted for inflation. Meanwhile, other expenses continue to eat up bigger portions of their budget.”
But you have to keep the moving violations to a minimum. According to InsuranceQuotes, only 19% of Americans who received a traffic ticket in the past five years are paying more for car insurance as a result. That's down from 31% in 2013, with drivers ages 30 to 49 picking up the most tickets and drivers 18 to 49 the most likely to see their insurance rates increase after receiving a ticket.
So what's the best way to keep a speeding ticket off your record? Don't get one.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.