Nearly everyone has received a speeding ticket at some point in their driving history. However, most people underestimate the severe impact that traffic and speeding tickets could have on their daily lives.
Most drivers know that if they do not address the ticket by paying the fine or responding within the 15-day deadline in Washington State, the Department of Licensing (DOL) can suspend your license. A common problem I hear is that people do not know how to fight a ticket, or feel the cost of a speeding ticket attorney or time off work to appear in court is not worth the hassle.
So, most individuals opt to pay the fine, have the ticket resolved, and move on with their lives.
The problem is that when you pay your speeding ticket, you agree that you were in violation of the law and blindly accept all the adverse consequences. Speeding tickets, when just paid, are reported to the Washington DOL and subsequently recorded on your driver’s record. Having a speeding ticket added to your driving record can, unfortunately, have profound effects on what you pay for vehicle insurance.
But it is not just higher insurance premiums that you might have to worry about. Speeding tickets, or any traffic ticket in general, can not only affect your insurance rates but also may affect your ability to drive and even your employment prospects.
How Driving Records and Tickets Work in Washington State
In Washington state, the Department of Licensing keeps a record for every driver who has an active driver’s license to operate a vehicle. This is a record of every interaction you, as a driver, have had with the police while driving, as well as your personal information, car collisions that you have been involved in, the status of your driver’s license and any suspensions or disqualifications on your record.
These recorded violations (like speeding tickets) can cause a steep increase in the rates that you pay for insurance. Carinsurance.com estimates that a single speeding ticket for going 11 to 16 miles over the posted speed limit can cause an increase in your rates of 19 percent. Insurance.com conducted a recent review that showed drivers who had a record with 3 or more violations experienced an increase in their car insurance rates by up to 53 percent.
In Washington State, a speeding ticket will stay on your driving record for 3 years for insurance purposes. That means that those increases in your rates will follow you around for quite some time.
The Effect of Speeding Tickets on Your Driving Record
Every change in your driving record is recorded when you plead guilty to a ticket and pay the fine. (Remember, that is what you are doing when you choose to simply pay the fine on a ticket — you are pleading guilty to the violation you were cited for.). Moving violations are registered and attached to your driving record. This record can be seen by any law-enforcement official, your insurance or prospective insurance agencies, and by any individual who does a background check.
A high number of violations on your driving record can have effects far beyond raising your insurance rates. Most states (like Washington) have laws dictating that after a certain amount of tickets are recorded on your driving record, your license will be suspended. Before you are allowed to have it reinstated, you must retake the driving exam and pass it.
While it may seem like just a simple fine to pay, how your driving record can be affected and the additional repercussions that come with simply paying the ticket you were issued have very real side effects on your personal life.
How Your Driving Record Affects Your Insurance Rates
It’s important to know that just one traffic violation is often enough to raise your rates or lose your “good driver” discount. Knowing that a speeding ticket will stay on your record for three years, you can easily see how even just one or two speeding tickets in a three-year period is enough to drastically affect your pocketbook.
While each insurance agency uses their own formula for deciding who a “dangerous driver” is, consumers often fail to realize that recorded speeding tickets or other types of traffic tickets are only a fraction of the equation. The age of the driver, whether the driver is male or female, and even the color and make of the car owned are all factored into the decision of whether or not to raise your car insurance.
Once your insurance company decides that your driving record places you in the category “high-risk” driver, your insurance rates can increase substantially. Those new, higher prices are likely to be the rates you will pay for years to come, even if your driving behavior improves Depending on the severity of the ticket, you could be faced with higher insurance rates for a minimum of 3 years, or for the rest of your driving time. If you receive any further tickets while classified as a “high-risk” driver, your insurance company may drop you from coverage.
It is especially important for drivers to realize that points or violations move with you too. Most states participate in information sharing regarding traffic tickets. Even if you move to another state and transfer your insurance carrier, the violations will still be on your record.
According to Forbes magazine, a single ticket can raise your rates up to 22 percent. When you compare the costs of a 22 percent increase over 3 years to the expense of hiring a traffic ticket attorney who may be able to prevent the negative ticket from being recorded on your driving record, it is pretty clear that the investment in hiring an attorney to contest your ticket could be a wise one.
Can My Driving Record Affect My Employment?
Traffic violations on your driving record can impact your employment too, even if the fines have been paid and the case has been resolved. Most companies, especially ones that require the employee to drive or handle money, conduct a background check on prospective employees.
If you have too many traffic infractions on your driving record, you can be declined employment that requires the operation of a vehicle. Just as you have personal insurance, the company will carry insurance for themselves to cover liabilities involved in having employees drive while conducting their work duties. A poor driving record on your behalf will translate into a higher insurance rate for your employer.
While this may not seem like a limiting aspect, when you consider that a wide range of positions will require driving of some sort, the employment aspect becomes important. Jobs such as being a delivery driver, mail courier, Uber/Lyft driver and more may be off-limits to any individual who has been classified as an “at-risk” driver.
Traffic Tickets are Big Money in Washington State
As unpleasant as it might seem, the State usually counts on drivers choosing not to contest their tickets and simply pay the fines. In the year 2017, Washington State generated $104,592,025 from various traffic infraction fines.
That is a sizeable portion of the State’s revenue, just from writing tickets. They understand that giving drivers the opportunity to avoid the hassle of court and just go ahead and pay their fines to avoid it is usually seen as the easier option by most violators.
How a Traffic Ticket Lawyer Can Help
A traffic ticket lawyer who is experienced in contesting traffic tickets can help you avoid all these potential pitfalls. In most cases, your traffic ticket lawyer can go to court for you and present evidence with the goal of having the ticket dismissed, question the police officer’s recording of your speed, and in many cases reject the State’s claim against you. When the ticket is dismissed, it is as if it never happened. Your driving record will remain intact with no negative marks, and you will owe the State no fines or fees for the infraction.
In the instance of cases where your traffic ticket lawyer is unable to have the ticket dismissed, a traffic lawyer can still provide valuable aid. Your traffic ticket lawyer might be able to reduce the ticket down to a lesser charge (like a non-moving violation), thereby limiting the adverse effects, even if they can’t get the ticket dismissed completely.
Even with the many benefits of choosing to fight your traffic ticket, unfortunately, only 13 percent of people in Washington State who are cited with a traffic infraction choose to fight their ticket in court.
Most drivers choose to pay the fine because they know that they were speeding and thought to themselves, there is no way out. However, the question that should be asked is not whether you were speeding, but rather, can the State or City prove that you were? It is their burden to prove so don’t make it easy on them!
By contesting your ticket, you are placing the State or City in the position of having to show that you are guilty. This is often a more difficult task than drivers think, given the many issues that have been noted with speed measuring devices and human error by the police officer.
When you take the time to review how speeding and other traffic tickets can have a long-term impact on your insurance rates, ability to drive, and employment possibilities, hiring a traffic ticket lawyer to contest them quickly becomes not a matter of if you should, but which traffic ticket lawyer to choose.
I suggest talking with a few traffic ticket lawyers before making your final decision of who will be representing you in court. Some law firms provide “niche market specialties” and choose to limit their representation to helping drivers just like you challenge their speeding and traffic tickets. These “niche firms” tend to have more success in getting their client’s tickets dismissed or reduced as they are more experienced with what works in challenging your traffic infraction and what doesn’t. Each case and court are different.
When it comes to your driving record, it is ideal to keep it as spotless as possible. When you are considering hiring a traffic ticket lawyer to contest your speeding ticket, be sure to work with one that focuses their practice on fighting infractions for their clients. Remember the age-old saying? jack of all trades attorney is a master of none. Your driving record is too important to leave in the hands of someone who doesn’t know what they are doing.
At Garguile Law, we have successfully fought over 10,000 infractions (like speeding tickets) in courts up, down, and around the Puget Sound. If you have recently received a speeding or other traffic ticket in Pierce King, Snohomish, Kitsap, Thurston or Lewis Counties give us a call for a free consultation today.