While the average American paid $907.38 in car insurance last year, that number increases by 20% or more if you commit one of eight specific moving violations.
The two most serious traffic offenses
At the top of the list are citations for driving under the influence and/or driving while intoxicated. A DUI or DWI increases a person's car insurance premiums by an average of 92.5%, according to an analysis by Quadrant Information Services.
The reason should be obvious. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 10,322 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2012 alone. On an annual basis, alcohol-related crashes cost more than $59 billion, much of which, we can safely assume, is borne by insurance companies.
Making matters worse, the repeat rate among violators is high. "Drivers with a [blood alcohol concentration] of 0.08% or higher involved in fatal crashes were seven times more likely to have a prior conviction for DWI than were drivers with no alcohol in their system," the CDC explains.
Another moving violation that stands out from the pack is reckless driving. In my home state of Oregon, this means that a driver is "aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk" of accident or injury. This violation encompasses excessive speeding, tailgating, and running stop signs or red lights, among other types of dangerous behavior.
The six remaining offenses
Further down the list are an assortment of less severe offenses. Three of the remaining six relate to varying degrees of speeding. A fourth is careless driving, defined as driving in a manner that "endangers or would be likely to endanger any person or property." And the final two are for driving the wrong way down a one-way street and improper passing, respectively.
While these six offenses pale in comparison with getting a DUI or reckless driving insofar as insurance premiums are concerned, they can nevertheless increase one's rates by an average of 20% to 30%. On the low end of the spectrum is improper passing, which increases premiums by an average of 20.3%. And on the high end is speeding in excess of 31 miles per hour over the posted limit, which raises a driver's rates by an average of 29.3%.
All of this isn't to say that other, less blameworthy factors don't affect one's premiums as well. At the top of the list are one's age, sex, and marital status. A young, unmarried male, for instance, pays an average of 24.8% more for car insurance than his married, male peer. A similar margin exists between a young man's premiums and a young woman's.
"This comes as no surprise to anyone in the insurance industry," says Insurance Information Institute spokesman Mike Barry. "Certain demographics, like young, single men, are going to pay more for auto insurance because history shows that they are more likely to file a claim and that they're more expensive to insure."
But while demographics aren't controllable, your driving behaviors are. This is why it's important to drive safely and within the law if you want to minimize your annual insurance expense.