Ticket Trap: Motorists caught breaking road rules also can face penalties involving their auto insurance coverage

A big moment for teenagers is being handed the keys to their own car. If they get a traffic ticket, however, the big deal may be seeing their auto insurance rates rise, according to insuranceQuotes.com (Dreamstime).

What if you were told that wealthier motorists tend to pile up the most traffic tickets?

Or, older drivers accumulate their share of road charges but younger drivers face stiffer insurance penalties for their offenses. Or this: Tickets don’t have as big an impact on premiums these days as they did just two years ago.

Each of the answeers to the car-related financial questions seem to be somewhat surprising. But according to an online company that tracks auto insurance, all the information stands up.

San Francisco-based insuranceQuotes.com oversaw a survey conducted the first week of April on connections between traffic tickets and auto premiums. The online website for consumers then followed up with a nuts-and-bolts report.

Among the findings:

- Not even 1 in 5 drivers saw their insurance premiums escalate because they had been ticketed. According to insuranceQuotes.com, 19 percent 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 2013, when 31 percent of motorists who received a recent traffic ticket saw an increase in premiums.

- Millennials, primarily those in their teens and 20s, tend to be “the most common culprits for risky driving,” according to the Internet site. But the most ticketed drivers by age group are 30-49 years old — 31 percent have received a ticket for a moving violation in the past five years, insuranceQuotes.com said. That compares with 25 percent for motorists 18-29 years old.

- Meanwhile, drivers 18-49 years old are three times more likely to see insurance premiums go up after being handed a ticket than motorists aged 50-64.

- American households that report annual income of $75,000 or higher are the “most likely of all income brackets to have received a ticket in the last five years,” according to the insurance tracking company.

“Insurers typically don’t know as much about you as you might think,” said Laura Adams, senior industry analyst for insuranceQuotes.com. “Oftentimes, unless you’re a young driver, they are unaware of minor tickets and violations you receive on the road.”

Most insurance carriers, she said, check a young driver’s record every six months. “Younger people have a bad reputation of being risky drivers and typically face additional scrutiny from insurance carriers,” the analyst said.

At the same time, companies don’t regularly check older drivers’ records since that can be costly, Adams said, adding that older drivers typically are safer drivers. The conception that older motorists are safer on the road reveals itself in findings that 18-49-year-old drivers are much more likely to see a boost in their auto premiums after receiving a ticket than 50-64-year-old motorists.

By income, the group with the best chance to have been hit with traffic tickets since April 2010 is the wealthiest class of American drivers surveyed, insuranceQuotes.com found. In a summary of its results, the online company didn’t explain why richer drivers amass more tickets.

Certain serious offenses — driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident — “almost always result in higher premiums,” the online company said. Sometimes, the carrier will drop coverage altogether. Similarly, motorists who commit a host of smaller violations “are more likely to face higher car insurance costs,” insuranceQuotes.com noted.

Adams recommends a few “strategies” to limit the impact of traffic tickets.

The tips include taking a class at traffic safety school. “You can wipe points off your driving record and learn how to improve your driving skills,” she said.

Another suggestion is to update vehicle registration, license plates and state inspection (South Carolina does not have a state-mandated car inspection). “Letting one of these expire can draw extra attention from law enforcement,” Adams said.

Also, reduce “the risk of increasing your insurance premium,” by staying away from getting more tickets.

The entire survey is available at www.insurancequotes.com/auto/traffic-tickets-insurance-rate-increase.

A unit of Bankrate Inc., insuranceQuotes.com describes its business as providing consumers with “a free, easy way to shop for and compare insurance quotes online.” It also delivers information about auto, home, health, life and other insurance types.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.