Should I Just Pay My Traffic Ticket, or Should I Fight It?

In most circumstances, you should never just pay a ticket that is given to you by a police officer. Most people don’t realize the long term consequences of having tickets on their record. Drivers need to understand that they have options other than paying their tickets. This advice doesn’t apply to traffic infractions that were issued by a camera. In Washington State, any traffic ticket that’s captured by a camera is considered a parking infraction. This means they don’t become part of your driving abstract and therefore it’d be appropriate to pay the penalty. But if a ticket is given to you by a law enforcement officer you should at least consider fighting the ticket due to the long term ramifications of having infractions on your record.

What Are Some Of The Long Term Consequences Of Just Paying A Ticket?

For most people, the only real long term consequences are what they will pay for their car insurance. Some people believe that since they have a good record or because they’ve been with their insurance company for a long time that their insurance rates won’t be affected if they just pay their ticket. The truth is that insurance companies are in business to make money and they make their money by betting on risk. The risk that you won’t be involved in an accident and they won’t have to pay out because of that accident. It’s important to realize that in the eyes of an insurance company any moving violation on your record increases the risk that you pose to the company. Insurance company’s underwriters go to great lengths to make the financial math work in their favor. Any ticket on your record is going to make you riskier in their eyes.

The problem is that the formulas used to determine the risks by the insurance companies are not made public. Your insurance agent can’t tell you what a traffic ticket will do to your rates. There have been studies done by companies like insurance.com that have looked at thousands of policies. They’ve provided us with educated guesses on what traditional traffic infractions will do to your insurance rates. They say texting while driving tickets will raise you about 23%. A speeding ticket for 16 to 29 miles per hour over the limit will raise you about 22%. For a speeding ticket for 1 to 15 over, you are generally looking at about 20% increase. An improper legal pass is 20% increase. Failure to stop at a stop sign is a 19% increase. These are relatively substantial increases in insurance rates.

Outside of money, the other long term consequence to consider is what do you do for work? If you drive for a living, you should think before you decide to pay for a ticket. Many companies require you to have a clean driving record. If you were driving under their insurance, they would make sure that you’re a safe driver. Unfortunately, I routinely get calls from individuals that either can’t get a job or have lost their job due to their driving record. The company tells them that they’re too expensive to insure. Driving records, especially if you drive for a living, are very important. If you don’t drive for a living then the most significant impact would be financial consequences for having increased insurance rates.

How Long Does A Traffic Ticket Stay On Your Driving Record In Washington?

This depends on what driving record we are talking about. In Washington State, you can get three driving records, a complete driving record, and employment record, and an insurance record. For insurance purposes, this is what insurance companies use to set your premiums. Your infractions will stay on this record for three years. For employment purposes, infractions will remain on your record for five years from the date the infraction is resolved by the court.

How Many Traffic Tickets In Washington Would Result In A Suspension Of My Driver’s License?

It’s common misconceptions but Washington does not operate on a point system. We have one of the more lenient policies in regards to how many tickets you can get before your license is suspended. There are several ways a driver can lose their privilege to drive in Washington State. The two I see most often would be a suspension for receiving six moving violations in 12 months or seven moving violations in 24 months. You will have a 60-day license suspension. After the suspension, you will be put on driving probation for one year. If you receive another ticket during your probation, your license will be suspended for 30 days and your 1-year probation will start over.

The other would be for someone that has been classified as a habitual traffic offender. A habitual traffic offender is 20 moving violations or more within five years. In this situation, your license is revoked until it’s eligible to be reinstated (a minimum of 4 years).