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The real costs of a non-moving or moving violation

The real consequences of critical driving errors.

Teenage girl driving

It’s easy enough to miss a sign or slow down too late, only to see flashing lights in your rearview mirror and receive a ticket for your troubles. But even minor, seemingly harmless non-moving or moving violations can set off a cascade of other costs and penalties, from demerit points on your driving record to higher insurance rates.

Two things are important to note: Critical driving errors differ by that terminology — whether they’re moving (the car is in motion) or non-moving. In addition, consequences vary state-to-state, from requirements for traffic school to points that you accumulate on your driving record. Here are a few of the ways that a non-moving or moving violation can impact you.

VIOLATION: Speeding

If you have a pretty clean record, chances are that a minor speeding ticket (under 10 mph over the limit) won’t cause much pain, aside from the cost of the ticket. In many states, a driver, particularly a first-time offender, can keep minor infractions such as low-level speeding off a driving record by going to traffic school or taking a driver improvement course. However, if you have a history of violations or you are a very young driver, the impact may be more serious.

  • Mitigating factors :
    • State regulations
    • Number of mph above the posted speed limit
    • Age
    • Driving record/history of infractions

  • Impact :
    • State/local fine, varies
    • Demerit points on driving record or driving school
    • Possible insurance rate increase
    • Possible court appearance

  • Local consequences :

VIOLATION: Illegal Right Turn on Red, Ticketed by a Red-Light Camera

In most states, a red-light camera ticket will cost you, but overall the penalties are far lighter than an officer-issued ticket. Those penalties may include lower fines, no demerit points, and the citation that counts as an administrative violation, similar to a parking ticket, instead of a moving violation. That means it won’t show up on your driving record or affect insurance rates.

  • Mitigating factors :
    • State regulations

  • Impact :
    • State/local fine, varies
    • Demerit points on driving record or driving school

  • Local consequences :
    • In Georgia, a red-light camera ticket (Official Code of Georgia (OCGA) § 40-6-20(f)) comes with a $70 maximum fine and no demerit points versus a traditional (read: IRL) ticket with a $1,000 max fine and three points. 

VIOLATION: Driving Without a License

If you accidentally left your wallet at home or your driver’s license in your coat pocket — your other coat — don’t panic. An officer may issue what’s known as a “fix-it ticket,” which simply requires you to produce your valid license at the police station or in court and the charge will be dismissed. There are other, more serious and deemed “willful,” ways drivers may find themselves charged with this violation — failing to apply for a state-issued driver’s license in a specific time (like 90 days for new state residents) or driving with an expired, suspended, or revoked license.

  • Mitigating factors :
    • State regulations
    • Severity of violation (honest mistake versus willful offense)
    • Driving record/history of infractions

  • Impact :
    • State/local fine, varies
    • Possible court appearance
    • Jail time
    • Suspended or revoked license
    • Vehicle impoundment
    • Possible insurance rate increase

  • Local consequences :
    • Even with a “fix-it ticket” there may still be a fine to pay — in Alabama (Alabama Code Title 32. Motor Vehicles and Traffic § 32-6-1) it can be as much as $100. And a first driving-while-suspended-or-restricted offense carries a jail sentence of up to 180 days.

VIOLATION: Failure to Yield

This may include failure to stop for a variety of circumstances — oncoming traffic, an emergency vehicle, a pedestrian, or yielding the right of way. When the violation also causes an accident, the consequences multiply.

  • Mitigating factors :
    • State regulations
    • Severity of violation (for example, an accident results from failure to yield)
    • Driving record/history of infractions

  • Impact :
    • State/local fine, varies
    • Demerit points on driving record
    • Possible insurance rate increase

  • Local consequences :
    • In Michigan (Vehicle Code Act 300 §257.649), failure to yield carries no fine, but does add two demerit points to your driving record. With an accident, the number of points may increase; some states impose points any time a driver is found responsible for a collision. And even if a pricey fine is not imposed, an accident may cost you in increased insurance premiums and deductibles for damage done to your own vehicle and your victim’s vehicle.

VIOLATION: Burned-Out Headlight

  • Mitigating factors :
    • State regulations
    • History of recent infractions for same light

  • Impact :
    • State/local fine, varies

  • Local consequences :
    • If you get pulled over for this in Missouri (MRS Chapter 307), the “equipment violation” incurs a fee of $28.50 and $60.50 in court costs for a grand total of $89 out-of-pocket, plus the cost of replacing the burned-out bulb.

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