When it comes to traffic violations, not all tickets are created equal. There are three levels of traffic ticket in Canada, and each level increases in severity. Minor, major, and serious, or criminal, offences are each classifications of violations and can all have an impact on your insurance rates. How insurance companies view the different types of ticket and the increase in your rates as a result varies based on the ticket itself and the insurance company's policies.
Minor traffic violations are the common tickets that many drivers receive for things like speeding, traffic signal violations such as running a red light, stop sign violations, making improper turns or lane changes, and failing to wear a seatbelt. Bear in mind that a minor violation can become a major one depending on the circumstances. Speeding, for example, goes from a minor to a major violation depending on how far over the posted speed limit you are driving and where you are caught speeding.
These types of violations usually result in a ticket and a small fine, as well as demerits on your license. Not all minor violations will have an impact on your insurance rate; it depends on the type of violation and the company's rules.
A major traffic violation is a much more serious offense which, although it may not be considered a criminal offence, carries heftier fines and results in more demerits on your license. These offences include school zone and school bus law violations, driving while uninsured, speeding more than 60 km/h over the posted limit (this number may vary by province) and failure to report an accident. They are generally considered to be more serious because they have a higher likelihood of resulting in injuries or fatalities or other serious consequences.
These types of tickets often have a greater impact on insurance rates, but again this varies depending on the insurance company's rules.
Some traffic violations carry major criminal charges, and are thus the most serious of traffic convictions. These violations include driving while impaired (over the legal limit for alcohol in your province), careless driving, racing, vehicular manslaughter, and failing to obey police or stay at the scene of an accident.
These violations will usually result in criminal proceedings against you and in some cases will result in the immediate suspension of your license. They have very serious ramifications and a major impact on insurance rates.
Insurance companies create their rates based on risk level, and when you have traffic violations this means that you present a higher risk. For that reason insurance companies raise rates when a driver is convicted of a traffic offence. The more serious the offence, the higher the rate you can expect to pay on renewal. In some cases, if you have repeated violations or major convictions on your record, your insurance company may choose to non-renew your policy. This means that on your renewal date they will not offer you continued coverage.
How much of an increase you will see on your insurance rates depends on a number of factors. Minor traffic offences usually mean the smallest increase, unless you have more than one. Each insurance company determines which offences will result in a rate increase, but most of the common tickets result in increases across the majority of companies.
You are required to disclose any tickets on your record to your insurance company; should you fail to do so and they are discovered this may result in the cancellation of your policy or an immediate rate increase. Tickets on an existing policy will usually affect rates on renewal.
When you receive a ticket, the best thing to do is call your insurance company and discuss the rate increase. At that point you may choose to shop around for a better rate if you can find one. Insurance companies charge for tickets for a pre-determined time period. If you keep your record clean, you will see the rate decrease after that period is up.
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