Getting a traffic ticket is a definite drag, especially if you firmly believe you committed no infraction. But trust us, arguing with a cop is a low-percentage endeavor. Show him your driver’s license and proof of insurance, sign the ticket and plot your next course of action after you’ve cooled down. The primary goal is to take care of this with the least possible impact on your wallet and your auto insurance premiums.
First of all, don’t ignore the ticket, because that can rack up more fines or get your license suspended (very bad next time you go shopping for car insurance quotes). In the worst case scenario, you could land in jail. Read the instruction on the back or visit your state’s department of motor vehicles website to see what your various options are. You can opt to just pay the ticket and be on your way, but that’s going cost you. Most municipalities are cash-strapped and something as simple as failure to stop at a stop sign can run you several hundred bucks. It will also result in points being assigned to your driver’s license and on your driving records. Not only will you be out for the cost of the ticket, you may see higher premiums when you renew or shop for car insurance.
The exact number of points and their impact on your auto insurance premiums will depend on where you live, who your car insurance provider is and your driving record. You can contact your present insurance company or state insurance regulator directly and ask them what kind of premium increases you’re looking at. If it isn’t significant, you may decide to pay up because it isn’t worth the time, hassle and expense to fight the ticket. Depending on where you live, you may also have the option of attending traffic school, which will keep the violation off your record and avoid points. This is not necessarily a cheap option, since you may have to pay the fine anyway and pay for the traffic school.
Or you can set up a court date to contest the ticket. Unless you were charged with some truly egregious offense like excessively exceeding the speed limit or reckless driving, you probably won’t need a lawyer. You can represent yourself in front of the traffic court judge. Go prepared with pictures of where you were ticketed, notes about the event and a decent knowledge of local traffic laws. With luck, the cop who issued the ticket won’t show up and the ticket will be dismissed. If the cop shows, he’ll be asked to give his side of the story, then you’ll give yours and the judge will come to a decision. If you lose, you’ll have to pay the fine and, depending on where you live, you might also have to pay court costs.
Best option for avoiding all this hassle and maintaining cheap auto insurance: drive safely and obey the rules of the road.