Traffic tickets are unpleasant business. They cost you a significant amount in fines and end up on your driving record. But there's another way driving penalties take money out of your pocket: higher insurance premiums.
Your driving history is an important factor that insurers use to determine how much you pay. But thankfully, your record is not a mystery. Neither is the weight insurers place on those past infractions.
Here's what you need to know -- and how you can save money on auto insurance even if your past isn't perfect.
How much are traffic fines?
The fines for traffic offences are set by the provincial government. In Ontario, speeding fines fall under Section 43 of the Highway Traffic Act. Speeding fines are calculated according to the number of kilometres you are over the limit, and those kilometres get more expensive the faster you're going. Fines for speeding between 1 and 49 km/h over the limit are listed in Schedule B of that Act and are:
- 1-19 km/h over limit: $2.50 per kilometre
- 20-29 km/h over limit: $3.75 per kilometre
- 30-49 km/hr over limit: $6.00 per kilometre
If you are caught driving more than 50 km/h over the limit, your vehicle will be impounded automatically and you will have to attend court. This will be considered a major infraction by your insurance company.
Ontario is just one example -- other provinces may have higher fines, and it may not be easy to fight the ticket. In most provinces, speeding fines are doubled in Community Safety Zones (usually near schools) and in construction zones when a worker is present.
How do tickets affect insurance?
Many factors go into calculating your insurance premium. These include how long you've been driving, where you live, your age, and the make of your vehicle. But driving history counts too, and in a big way. The better your record the lower your premium.
The government also states that one minor infraction should not affect your rates. Note the word "should" here, as an insurance company can still choose to charge you more based on just one minor ticket. But in general, if you've had two tickets in the past three years, even for small offences, your premium will rise. That's also the case if you had one major conviction or many traffic tickets.
Your insurance can increase by a huge percentage, depending on the type of ticket. Here are some examples:
- Speeding fines and other minor infractions: 10% increase. That's for things like failing to signal, failing to yield, obstruction of license plate, or driving too slow.
- Distracted driving and other major infractions: 25% increase. That's for things like distracted driving, false statement of insurance, failing to report an accident, or speeding in a construction zone.
- Serious or criminal driving convictions: 100% increase. That's for things like racing, failing to remain at the scene of an accident, criminal negligence, or driving under the influence.
Is that ticket minor, major, or criminal?
This is a list of some common tickets, and their classification in terms of insurance rate increases.
- Crowding vehicle with more people than seatbelts
- Defective brakes
- Driver's licence violations
- Driving with an insecure load
- Driving without an up-to-date inspection sticker
- Failing to share the road
- Failing to signal
- Failure to use seatbelts
- Failing to yield to another vehicle or pedestrian
- Failure to surrender your licence to authority
- Failure to produce evidence of insurance to authority
- Failure to carry an insurance card
- Following too closely
- Headlight offences
- Improper driving in a bus lane
- Improper opening of door
- Improper passing, lane change or turn
- Improper railway crossing
- Improper towing
- Improper use of divided highway
- Obstruction of licence plate
- Obstructing the view of other drivers
- Obstructing traffic
- Stop sign or traffic light infraction
- Unnecessary noise
- Unnecessary slow driving
- Unsafe move
- Unsafe or prohibited turn
- Unsafe vehicle
- Use of radar warning device
- Wrong Way On One Way
- Distracted driving
- All insurance offences
- False statement of insurance
- Failure to follow restrictions in a school zone or improper passing zone
- Failing to report an accident
- Failure to report damage to highway property
- Failing to stop or improper passing at a school bus
- Operating motor vehicle with no insurance
- Producing false evidence of licence or insurance
- Speeding in a construction zone
Serious and criminal tickets
- Driving impaired (blood alcohol level over 0.08 in Ontario)
- Careless or dangerous driving
- Criminal negligence
- Driving while under suspension
- Failing to obey police
- Failing to remain at an accident scene
- Motor manslaughter
- Speeding 50 km over posted speed limit (or set limit in your province)
- Refusing a breathalyzer test
- Stunting / Drag racing
How do you know what's on your record?
So if you know your premiums are impacted by your driving history, you probably want to know what's on the books. You may have wiped that expensive speeding ticket from your memory, but it's still attached to your licence. In Ontario, you can get a copy of your driving record for a $12 fee -- $18 if you want it certified. You can also get your insurance history report for free. That lets you see your past claims history and policy information.
How do you get lower rates?
If it takes up to six years to have a clean driving history, you may feel defeated when it comes to premiums. But the IBC notes you can take action. You have the option to choose public transit to lower the number of annual kilometres on your car. You can also exclude high-risk drivers from using your vehicle.
Shop online and save
You have a choice when it comes to car insurance. Look online for the best car insurance quotes. You can save money, even if you have some past mistakes.