Traffic convictions can affect your auto insurance rates differently, depending on the severity of the conviction. There are 3 different tiers: minor, major and severe (or criminal). Many drivers end up with one or two minor convictions during the course of their lifetime, but it’s the major and severe convictions that can really take their toll on your insurance rates.
Here are a few key facts that are important to know:
- There is a difference between a ticket and a conviction. A ticket is what is given to you when you are pulled over for violating a “rule of the road” and a conviction is when you are found guilty of that violation. A traffic violation will remain on your driver’s abstract for 3 years from the date of the conviction (NOT the date you got the ticket). The date you are officially convicted can be any of the following: the date you pay your ticket, the date you are found guilty in court if you choose to dispute your ticket, or date you plead guilty to the offense without disputing the ticket.
- Insurance companies will focus on conviction dates when considering whether or not they will insure you and your vehicle. They always look at the risk factor; the more convictions you have, the higher the risk, the more you will pay to drive your car. This also goes for the severity of the conviction. Let’s say you were caught using your handheld device while driving (which is considered a major conviction for most insurance companies), this will affect you just as much, maybe more, than if you had multiple minor convictions.
- Insurance companies can only find out about your conviction(s) if you disclose it to them, or if they have to pull a copy of your driver’s abstract and it’s listed there. It is highly recommended to disclose all convictions to your insurance company, otherwise if you fail to do so and they are discovered, this can cause the company to cancel your policy. Most companies will wait until they are reviewing your policy renewal before pulling your report and adding a conviction, so you shouldn’t see a mid-term premium increase. If you incur too many convictions during your policy term, this may cause your insurance company to non-renew your policy, which means that they will not offer to continue your coverage for another term.
The convictions we see most often on someone’s driver’s abstract are ones such as speeding (49 km/h or less over the posted speed limit), failing to obey a traffic sign, failure to carry your insurance card, failure to wear a seatbelt, etc. These are all considered minor convictions. Some examples of major convictions are speeding (50 km/h and above over the posted speed limit), failing to stop for a school bus or an emergency vehicle, or using a hand-held device while driving. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, driving while your license is suspended and driving without insurance are a few criminal convictions that can be found on someone’s driver’s report.
One good thing to note is that if you have no convictions, you may be entitled to a discount on your auto insurance. Though the addition of one minor ticket to your driving record may not cause a significant change, you may see the increase in premium due to the loss of your conviction-free discount. Some companies also offer what is called a conviction protection coverage. Much like accident forgiveness, this allows you, for one time only, to get a ticket and have it not affect your premium whatsoever. Once you use this coverage, though, it’s removed from your policy. But again, not all companies offer this, so please talk it over with your broker or agent for more information.
People also often associate tickets/convictions with gaining demerit points. First and foremost, demerit points don’t affect your insurance, but they can affect your license status. A great place to read up on the ins and outs is on our province’s website.
Every conviction is preventable, but if you do end up with one here and there, remember that they don’t stick around forever. It’s also highly recommended that if you do get a ticket, contact your broker or agent to discuss. We’re able to give you exact information as to how that conviction may affect you because we can always double check with your insurance company, whereas any other third party cannot. We’re always happy to help so feel free to contact us if you have any questions!