moderate moving violations: texting and driving, improper passing, and other infractions

An illegal U-turn or failing to yield seems tame next to, say, a DUI conviction. But the consequences for them can be tougher and longer-lasting than you may suspect. Find out about these middle-of-the-road no-no's and the negative effects they can have on car insurance premiums.

(This is the second of a 3-part series explaining some of the most common moving violations. For more info on the most serious infractions, read part 1. For less serious violations, visit part 3.)

the points system and car insurance

Most states' DMVs use a points system to penalize dangerous drivers and reward safe drivers. When drivers commit moving violations, a corresponding number of penalty points may be added to their driving records. And if they receive a certain number of them, which varies by state, they may lose their license.

More points can make motorists appear reckless and thus risky to insure. That's why those with spotty driving records generally pay more for car insurance than their safe-driving counterparts.

Because each state decides its own traffic laws, the names of violations and their penalties can vary. But you'll find a sampling of moderate infractions and possible consequences for those charged with them below.

Speeding (10–15 mph over the limit)

It's not exactly news that speeding's dangerous. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) cites speeding as a factor in about one-third of all car accidents, causing approximately 900 deaths each month.

Speeding is also costly. In California, for example, a ticket can cost more than $300, not to mention the possible increase in car insurance payments. And in Massachusetts, racking up 3 or more speeding tickets within a year results in a one-month license suspension.

Failure to yield

Most states consider this a middling violation — unless it involves emergency vehicles or school buses. For instance, in Pennsylvania, drivers may get a 60-day suspension and 5 penalty points for failing to yield to a school bus with flashing lights.

Here's a breakdown of how right-of-way usually works:


Pedestrians generally have the right-of-way in marked or unmarked crossing zones.

Emergency vehicles

Emergency vehicles always have the right-of-way. Yield to any that have their sirens sounding or pull over if they're approaching from behind.

School buses

Stop behind any bus with flashing lights. And as a rule, always yield to a school bus.

4-way stops

Typically, whoever gets to the intersection first gets to go through first. And if 2 cars reach it at the same time, it's usually the one on the right that has the right-of-way.

Texting and driving

A study by Car and Driver magazine found that reaction time is worse when texting and driving than drinking and driving. And study after study confirms that texting and driving makes it hard to stay within the lane.

That's why, as of 2016, 46 states (and D.C.) have passed texting-and-driving bans. The most common penalty is a small to moderate fine. In New York, however, first-time offenders can be penalized with 3 points and a fine of up to $150.

Improper passing

There are several ways to pass improperly. For one, most states prohibit passing on the right except under certain circumstances (like if a road has 2 or more lanes).

More serious are the maneuvers that put everyone on the road in obvious jeopardy, such as passing on a blind curve or shoulder. Depending on the location, improper passing could tack about 4 points to a driver's record.

Illegal U-turns

Drivers charged with making an illegal U-turn can expect a moderate fine. It's around $128 in Minnesota, for example. If an illegal U-turn causes an accident or happens in a particularly hectic intersection, the driver could face a tougher penalty.

Leaving the scene of an accident/hit-and-run (no injuries)

Drivers should always stay at the scene of an accident. Even if there are no injuries, many states enforce harsh penalties when a driver flees. In D.C., a driver who leaves the scene of a crash where no injury occurs can expect an 8-point penalty. And in Texas, it can lead to a fine of between $500 and $2,000 depending on how much property damage is involved.

Improper signaling

Using signal lights or hand gestures (no, not that kind) should be second nature. And while you might think failing to do so is hardly a moderate violation, signaling remains a key element to safely navigating the cars around you. Which is why Virginia, for one, tacks 4 points to a driver's record for an improper-signaling violation.

Driving on the shoulder

The shoulder of the road is reserved for emergencies only, like when your car engine overheats or to make way for emergency vehicles. Drivers caught doing it for no good reason (like to bypass traffic) can expect at least one point on their records.

Driving on the wrong side of the road

This is commonly the sign of a more serious problem (like driving under the influence or a serious medical emergency) if it goes on for more than a few seconds.

The penalties can vary. If it was a harmless mistake, it might cost only a couple of points. However, if the driver is found to be intoxicated or driving recklessly in general, that could mean a penalty in the neighborhood of 12 points and the loss of driving privileges.

No proof of car insurance

Most states will issue a ticket to motorists who can't produce proof of car insurance. In many cases, drivers can have fines reduced or removed altogether if they can later prove they were insured at the time of the stop.

Many states allow 30 days to produce proof of insurance. After 30 days, driving privileges may be suspended.

the rewards for not committing any of the above

Each of these moving violations is enforced to make the roads safer. If you can avoid them, your car insurance company usually has worthwhile ways to thank you (think lower premiums and more discounts). And the longer you maintain a safe driving record, the more the savings tend to pile up.

Part 1: moving violations of high severity
Find a detailed list of the most severe moving violations, such as hit-and-run, excessive speeding, and others that impact car insurance rates the most.

Part 3: moving violations of low severity
Even minor moving violations can affect your safety as well as how much you pay for car insurance.

How speeding affects your car insurance
Learn how following the speed limits can save money and keep you safer on the road.

Car insurance discounts from Esurance
Keeping a clean driving record is great way to save. Now find even more discounts you might be eligible for as an Esurance customer.

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