The dreaded sounds of a blaring siren down an otherwise empty stretch of highway can turn a pleasant afternoon drive into a nerve-wracking experience. Almost everyone who has gotten behind the wheel has broken a traffic law through ignorance or accident, and a momentary lapse of attention to the speedometer can turn even the most cautious driver into a speed demon in the eyes of a quota-driven deputy. Whether you’re a veteran traffic violator with an extensive rap sheet or a one-time offender who feels like a seatbelt violation will turn them into a disappointment for their parents, knowing more about traffic violations and the havoc they can render will save you money.

How Much Will a Ticket Cost You?

The most direct cost of the traffic ticket will be the penalties leveled against you by the court, typically in the form of a monetary fine and citation on your driving record. The exact form the fines and citations will take is determined by the state, so it is useful to take the time to learn the laws of your state of residence, neighboring states, and any state you plan on driving through for business or pleasure. Common violations include speeding, driving while intoxicated, disobeying traffic signs, failure to signal, reckless driving, expired or missing documents, and failure to wear a seat belt. The severity of the punishment will fluctuate according to the specific violations and your driving history. The type of license you have can also be a factor in how stiff the penalties are, as CDL licensees are likely too familiar with.

If the fine is higher than you can pay or if you miss a court date, then the judge may add additional fines to the original penalty. Some of the more nefarious districts may even fine you for failure to pay. This can create a spiraling vortex of cost that can trap you just as quickly as credit card debt or payday loan schemes.

After you get done dealing with the legal system, your insurance company will be the other party waiting to take a bite out of you. These wonderful bastions of capitalism are frothing at the mouth for any reason to increase your rates, and breaking a driving law is an unfortunately legitimate-sounding excuse for them to do so. The fact that they’ll hike your rates by percentages that seem pulled from a roll of the dice while you do your best to grin and bear it is irrelevant here. A single speeding ticket from an overzealous patrolman who caught you doing 56 in a 55 can raise your yearly insurance premiums by a thousand bucks or more.

What Can You Do About a Traffic Ticket?

Aside from wishing you had the power of time travel, there may seem to be little or nothing that you can do to alleviate the financial pain of the traffic ticket, but you are not as helpless as you think.

For the legal concerns, lawyers focused on traffic law have cropped up in response to the overwhelming need for protecting citizens from the man. They can help you file a challenge against the ticket, which is a good way to have the penalties dropped or thrown out completely. It helps to take a realistic view here; you will have to pay far less for a lawyer capable of getting rid of a fix-it ticket or missing documents than one who can get a drunk driving charge mitigated.

After exhausting the legal avenue, the next step is to do everything you can to make the insurance company forget all about the blot on your record. Some companies will forgive the rate hike if the penalties are reversed, but relying on their altruism will only get you so much. One of the few ways you can convince them to drop your rates is through attending traffic school. A certificate of completion in defensive driving techniques will get you a state-mandated insurance discount in many states that can counteract the hike from violations up to and including speeding tickets. Considering the number of years it can take for the marks on your record to disappear, attending traffic school can equal out to savings in the thousands after factoring in the cost of the course without the risk of filing a legal challenge with the aid of a lawyer. If you only have the funds to pick one of the two options, traffic school is the reliably effective solution to reducing the cost of your traffic ticket.