Get caught behind the wheel with a few drinks under your belt and your premiums could cost more than your car payments.

We’ve all had that sinking feeling when we suddenly see a squad car’s lights flashing in the rearview mirror, accentuated perhaps with a brief burst of siren to embellish the officer’s implicit request to pull over and have vehicular justice served.

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And among the first things likely to come to mind while fishing for one’s license and registration is, “What is this going to cost me?”

Paying the fine on a traffic ticket can be enough of a shock to one’s finances, but a moving violation can punish an offender for several years down the road in terms of higher car insurance costs.

Long-Term Losses

As one might imagine, being cited for driving while under the influence of liquor or drugs (AKA a DUI) warrants the costliest tickets, with up-front penalties that can run from $500 to $5,000 – not including legal fees – and a possible loss of driving privileges. On top of that, violators can expect their insurance premiums to nearly double, rising by an average 95.6% according to a national analysis conducted by the website InsuranceQuotes.com.

Being cited for reckless driving – a legal catch-all used for serious infractions involving a wanton disregard for the rules of the road and/or the safety of others – comes in second at a national average 87.5% boost in insurance rates. This is as opposed to careless driving (a 33% increase), which involves a relatively minor lapse in judgement. By the way, the “cheapest” ticket to receive in this regard is for failure to wear a seatbelt, with an average 6.5% penalty.

Here’s InsuranceQuotes.com list of 17 common moving violations and how much they will, on average, raise a policyholder’s auto insurance premiums:

  • DUI: 95.6%.
  • Reckless driving: 87.5%.
  • Careless driving: 33.0%.
  • Speeding 31+ mph over the limit: 30.7% increase.
  • Speeding 16 to 30 mph over the limit: 29.2%.
  • Improper passing: 23.6% increase.
  • Driving the wrong way: 23.4%
  • Following too closely: 22.9%
  • Speeding 1 to 15 mph over the limit: 22.4%.
  • Failure to yield to pedestrians: 22.3%.
  • Failure to yield to other drivers: 22.1%.
  • Failure to stop at sign or signal: 22.0%.
  • Violating rail crossing rules: 21.9%
  • Failure to signal: 21.8%
  • Driving solo in a carpool lane: 21.5%.
  • Driving without a license: 12.6%
  • Failure to wear a seatbelt: 6.5%.

Note that the above increases are cited for first-time offenders – getting a second violation will likely double them. Even worse, depending on the infractions and the carrier, being issued too many citations might cause a motorist to lose his or her coverage altogether.

Fortunately for city dwellers who already pay higher-than-average auto insurance rates, policyholders are not penalized for amassing parking tickets.

Where You Might Pay More, And How To Pay Less

And as with everything regarding car insurance, premium increases for being ticketed vary from state to state, depending on factors that include population density, crime rates, the number of uninsured drivers, and whether local laws tend to favor consumers or insurance companies. Tipplers in North Carolina face the highest auto insurance rate penalties for receiving a DUI, with an average 334% rate increase. That means a $1,000 annual premium suddenly becomes a whopping $4,338.

The most forgiving state in this regard is in Louisiana, where a citation for driving under the influence boosts car insurance rates on average by just 29%.

In case you’re curious about how that ticket your received last week will affect your next insurance bill, InsuranceQuotes.com maintains a calculator that cites average rate increases according to the type of violation and the state in which a perpetrator resides. 

Regardless of where you live, if you’re issued a moving violation that sends your car insurance premiums skyrocketing, always try shopping around for a better deal, both despite and because of having a tainted driving record. Some insurance carriers are inherently more tolerant of certain offenses than others. Those who may not be able to find a better deal elsewhere should be sure they’re taking advantage of all available discounts, and consider raising deductibles or cutting coverage to help offset all or part of a rate increase (click here for detailed advice on how to obtain cheaper auto insurance rates).

Money-saving tips:

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