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Do traffic tickets really drive up your insurance?

"Don't get a speeding ticket or your insurance premiums will soar."

That's the common theme everybody always hears, but it's Local scull court money 3not always the case, according to a new study by InsuranceQuotes.com.

The website, part of Bankrate Inc. of Florida, found that 23 percent of Americans had gotten a ticket in the last five years for speeding, running a red light or passing illegally. Of those, only 31 percent  are actually paying more because of it. And the most common increase is less than $100 per year -- a far cry from many drivers' fears.

Younger drivers are the most likely to face the higher charges, as 41 percent of those aged 18-29 reported higher premiums after a ticket, compared to 32 percent of those aged 30 to 49, and just 15 percent of those 50 and over.

But that's also because younger drivers are already perceived as being riskier, so insurance carriers are more likely to scrutinize them more closely, even checking younger drivers' credit reports every six months. By contrast, insurers aren't necessarily checking motor vehicle reports and driving records that regularly for older drivers. So their tickets go undetected.

However, the findings don't apply to more serious offenses, such as driving under the influence, reckless driving or leaving the scene of an accident. Those almost always lead to higher premiums or even termination of a policy, InsuranceQuotes said. Multiple offenses also are more serious than one-off tickets.

Meanwhile, if you do get a ticket, take a defensive driving class to wipe off the points; consult an attorney if you have accumulated several points already; avoid getting more tickets, since many carriers permit one violation every three to five years; and keep your registration, license plates and state inspection up to date so you don't draw unwanted police attention.

-- Jonathan D. Epstein

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