Zaneta Wood, Ed.S. has over 15 years of experience in research and technical writing bringing a keen understanding of data analysis and information synthesis to reach a wide variety of audiences. She studied adult education and instructional technology at Appalachian State University as well as technical and professional communication at East Carolina University. Zaneta has prepared technical p...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP®

UPDATED: Oct 13, 2020

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Here's What You Need To Know

  • A police officer can give you a verbal warning or a written warning for any minor traffic violation.
  • Receiving a few minor warnings should not cause an increase in your car insurance premiums.
  • A written or verbal warning will not appear on your driving record as a violation or citation.
  • You will not have to make a court appearance for a verbal or written warning.

Do warnings affect car insurance rates? If you’re ever pulled over and the officer decides not to give you a citation, but a warning, you might have been left with some questions.

Although it’s never a good thing to get a warning by a police officer for a traffic violation, it’s still better to get a bit of a tongue-lashing than to have them write out a ticket or citation to you due to your driving negligence.

But what about your insurance? You’ve heard about how your actual driving history affects your insurance rates, but does a written warning affect insurance in the same way? What about verbal warnings? For your benefit, we are going to go over four must-know facts about traffic warnings and how they affect your car insurance.

Although a single warning doesn’t affect your car insurance premiums, multiple warnings might get noticed by your insurance provider. Keep reading to learn about traffic warnings and violations that will affect your insurance rates, how to increase your chances of getting off with a warning, and what to do if you get pulled over by a police officer.

Whether you have a warning or an actual ticket on your driving record, it’s never a bad time to compare car insurance rates. Enter your ZIP code into our FREE online tool  to immediately receive car insurance quotes with a warning from reputable car insurance providers.

Table of Contents

Do warnings affect car insurance rates?

Your driving record drastically impacts what you pay for car insurance. Drivers with a clean record receive the cheapest car insurance rates. But what about a verbal or written warning? Do warning tickets affect insurance? 

Generally speaking, a warning won’t be discovered by your insurance company, and you won’t be penalized for it. 

How long does a warning stay on your driving record? Verbal warnings might not appear on your record at all, and written warnings will only remain for a few years.  However, this information is not usually available to your insurance providers anyway. 

On the other hand, receiving a real traffic citation from a police officer will most likely increase your car insurance rates. Depending on what insurance company you use, a single violation can increase your rates by just a little, or by a lot. 

Find out how a single traffic violation can impact your car insurance premiums in the table below.

Average Annual Car Insurance Rates by Driving Record
CompaniesClean recordWith one speeding violationWith one accidentWith one DUI
USAA$1,933.68$2,193.25$2,516.24$3,506.03
Geico$2,145.96$2,645.43$3,192.77$4,875.87
American Family$2,693.61$3,025.74$3,722.75$4,330.24
Nationwide$2,746.18$3,113.68$3,396.95$4,543.20
State Farm$2,821.18$3,186.01$3,396.01$3,636.80
Progressive$3,393.09$4,002.28$4,777.04$3,969.65
Travelers$3,447.69$4,260.80$4,289.74$5,741.40
Farmers$3,460.60$4,079.01$4,518.73$4,718.75
Allstate$3,819.90$4,483.51$4,987.68$6,260.73
Liberty Mutual$4,774.30$5,701.26$6,204.78$7,613.48
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Keeping a clean driving record is essential to keeping your car insurance rates low. As you can see from the data above, if your carrier is GEICO, you’ll pay $499 more per year if you have one ticket on your driving record. With Liberty Mutual, your rates would increase even higher with a speeding ticket. 

With most companies, a speeding violation won’t affect your rates as much as an accident or a DUI. If you’re lucky, a police officer might let you off with a simple warning. 

Keep reading to learn our four essential facts all drivers should know about police warnings and how they could affect your car insurance policy. With these facts, you’ll be prepared for what happens if you get a warning from a cop. 

1. Car Insurance Companies Cannot See Your Warnings

Car Insurance companies typically don’t have access to written warnings that you’ve received from a police officer. So can you throw away a warning ticket? You can throw it away as long as you’re sure it’s a warning, with no court date or other relevant information on it as a ticket would.

However, in some states police officers can choose to give your warning to the Department of Motor Vehicles, or DMV. If your warning is sent to the local DMV, your insurance can and will find out about it.

But there are some factors that could impact whether your insurance company uses your warnings when calculating your insurance rates.

Minor infractions probably will not affect your rates. If the warnings were for something minor like a headlight being out, your insurance premiums will not increase. To the insurer, a headlight being out does not prove you’re a risky driver.

Major infractions might affect your rates.  If you have multiple warnings and they are for something like speeding, your insurance company may see it as a habit and label you a high-risk driver. This could possibly raise your rates. However, remember that most warnings do not actually get recorded or shared in this way. 

While occasionally speeding or running through a red light may feel like minor violations, both incidents are actually quite dangerous, especially if you’re a repeat offender. 

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 846 people were killed in fatal accidents that involved running red lights, and another 139,000 people were injured. You’re more likely to receive an actual ticket if you commit these offenses, rather than receive a third or fourth warning.

If you’re starting with a new or different insurance company, know that an agent will be looking more closely at your record than your previous insurance company had. It is possible the agent might find any recorded warnings. To see if your written warnings are on record with the DMV, check with your state department.

2. Too Many Warnings Can Lead to a Citation

Does a warning ticket affect insurance? Not usually. But if you receive multiple warnings close together, your insurance provider will probably notice. 

Imagine a scenario where your car insurance rates go up after only two speeding tickets in five years. Although you have only two speeding citations over five years, let’s say you have four written warnings, as well.

All insurance carriers are different, but generally, speeding tickets issued that apart usually don’t cause your rates to rise. This is where those written warnings can cause you a bit of a headache and make you dig a bit deeper into your pockets to pay your insurance premiums.

Too many warnings are a red flag. Eventually, insurance companies will consider the warnings to be evidence that you are a dangerous driver, and will treat them like actual driving violations. 

Take a look at this video to see how your driving history can affect your insurance.

Some insurance carriers may deem this as poor driving history since you’re being too careless and reckless on the road. Eventually, your insurance premiums will likely increase. 

Keep in mind that warnings by police officers are handled differently in every state. You need to find out the rules of your state and local law enforcement agencies on how they deal with written warnings.

Similarly, each insurance company also calculates rates using different information. Find out from your insurance carrier how they handle written warnings for vehicle violations and how they can affect your overall insurance premiums in the future.

It’s important to note that some states have a system where they keep track of warnings, and enough warning could wind up with a citation. Whether you receive an Iowa traffic warning memorandum, a Florida traffic written warning, or a warning ticket in CT, you won’t end up with higher insurance rates. But, if you get pulled over again, the police officer might be able to see your prior warnings which can lead to the issuing of a citation.

How long does a warning ticket stay on your record in Maryland, or in NJ, or any other state? That all depends on whether the state is recording those warnings.

3. You Do Not Have to Make a Court Appearance for a Warning Ticket

If you were truly given a warning, written or verbal, you do not need to appear in court. Only traffic violations where you were given a ticket or citation require payment of a fine or an appearance before a judge in a court of law. 

If you believe you were given a written warning but there is a court date listed, then you were mistaken. This is actually a real ticket, not a written warning. Be sure to appear in court on the listed date.

It is possible the officer may have given you a lesser ticket with a softer punishment, and that’s what you thought was a warning.

For example, you may be caught traveling enough over the speed limit that your infraction transitioned from a moving violation to a criminal offense. This varies from state to state, but let’s say it was 90 mph.

The police officer then records your speed as 80 in a 65 mph zone, even though you were actually going 90 mph. He is giving you a break, and “warning” you that next time you could be charged with a criminal offense if you drive over 90 mph in a 65 mph zone.

4. Multiple Warning Tickets Might End Up On Your DMV Record

What happens with a warning ticket? You’ll need to contact your local DMV and find out what the protocol is for warnings given by police officers and whether they are on record or stored in some electronic or hard copy. 

Also, you may wish to contact your insurance agent and find out what their protocol is in regard to raising premiums if you’re given a warning — written or otherwise — following a moving violation by a law enforcement official.

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What is the difference between a written and verbal warning?

If you’re pulled over, you may receive one of two warnings. You may get a verbal warning or a written warning from a police officer. A verbal warning is the better option because they are not usually recorded. 

When a police officer stops you, they won’t always give you a ticket. They may be stopping you to tell you something is wrong with your vehicle, or that you missed a stop sign.

For whatever reason you were stopped, you should listen to the officer’s warnings and do better next time to avoid receiving a citation in the future. After you receive a warning you can go on about your day. You won’t receive any written document.

If a warning is verbally spoken by the officer, there is no record of the incident even happening, so it’s as if it didn’t happen at all.

In some states, though, a verbal warning still has to be recorded on your record. In Texas, a verbal warning has to be recorded. The warning won’t go on your driving record, however.

What is a written warning ticket?

If the officer did give you a written warning, and not a citation, then you still may wish to find out if this written warning gets documented to the DMV or in someplace where your insurance carrier could find it. This could be somewhere online, in a database, or a hard copy in a filing cabinet. In other words, what does a written warning ticket mean for your driving record?

Even if your insurance carrier can find this written warning through law enforcement records, it still should not count against you in regards to how much your car insurance premiums are going to be. 

Do written warnings go on your driving record? Although in some states, law enforcement does keep documentation on written warnings for all minor offenses, unless you have a ticket or citation, a warning of any sort by itself should not raise your insurance rates.

Any type of warning will hopefully accomplish its purpose of helping you remember to obey traffic laws, while not hurting your driving record or your wallet.

Be careful to not confuse a written warning and a citation. A warning ticket with a court date isn’t a warning ticket. 

Written warnings often look just like a citation, but with no court date or a fine on it. Since a warning isn’t a citation, there will be no points added to your driving record. 

If you receive a citation and live in a state with a points system, you’ll have points added to your driving record. Just be aware that driving record points length on state records do vary depending on where you live. Warnings, however, won’t usually appear on your driving record at all.

When insurance companies look up your driving record, they won’t see your warning ticket. Insurance companies will look up your driving record when you get quotes to see how risky a driver you are.

What to Do If You Receive a Traffic Citation

Sometimes getting a traffic citation is inevitable. No matter what the citation is for, it won’t be the end of the world if you receive one. The consequences aren’t that bad, and you can usually get away with just paying a fine. 

However, you might want to learn how to fight a speeding ticket, or at least prevent it from drastically increasiing your rates. There are several ways to handle a traffic citation. Depending on the circumstances and what state you live in you can sign up for driving school to mitigate the consequences, contest the ticket to get it off of your record, or hire a lawyer.

Many states have the option to go to take a defensive driving course or driving safety class to remove points from your record, and maybe even decrease your insurance rates. However, the traffic citation will still be on your record, and you still must pay the citation fine. 

If you committed a serious traffic violation, you won’t be able to take a driving course. 

According to the legal experts at NOLO, states usually allow drivers to take a defensive driving course every 12 to 18 months. The cost of the course can be anywhere between $10 and $100. 

Instead of taking a driving course, you can also choose to simply contest your ticket. Many drivers chose not to take the driving course or contest the ticket. Contesting a ticket will take a lot of time and money. 

There are only two ways to win your case. You could get lucky and the judge could find you not guilty, or the police officer could not show up to court. In California and Oregon, you can fight a ticket in writing.

You can also choose to hire an attorney. With an attorney, you won’t have to go to court by yourself. They also give you a better chance of winning your case.

Depending on what your circumstance is, you might be better off paying the ticket. Deciding to pay the fine instead of contesting the ticket will cause you to pay the maximum fine. In most states, paying the fine can get you out of going to court. 

However, if you go to the court and plead guilty you can possibly get your fine reduced. Your car insurance rates will still increase, however.

How are traffic warnings reported?

What happens when an officer gives you a warning and does it vary from state to state? Can cops see if you got a warning the next time they pull you over?

Depending on what state you live in, police officers can give you a verbal warning. However, some states require that their officers write down verbal warnings. Police officers will put warnings into their computers just like they do citations. That means if you are pulled over again, there is a record of that warning with the police department.

If your car insurance company sees that you have a warning ticket on your driving record, they won’t consider you high-risk. High-risk drivers will have multiple driving violations or are under the age of 25.

Are there more warnings or citations given out? The number of warnings or citations given out depends on where you live and the police officers in that area. In the state of Utah, for example, police officers give out more citations than warnings.

What happens when you get pulled over by a police officer?

Getting pulled over isn’t ideal, but if it happens, there are a few things you should do to avoid conflict with an officer of the law. First, remain calm and do your best to remain polite, regardless of how the police officer behaves.

Before the officer gets to the car, turn off your car, roll down your window, and place your hands on your steering wheel so the officer can clearly see them as he or she approaches. 

If it’s nighttime, turn on the interior light in your car. Don’t begin to go through your glove department or put stuff under your seat. Move slowly and calmly. You don’t want the officer to see you as a threat.

If a police officer asks you to pull the car over in a questionable location, many states offer a road safety number to drivers. Learn if your state allows a call from a mobile phone to such a number. The road safety number will allow drivers to reach local law enforcement, including highway patrol dispatch personnel, to explain your concerns about safety.

You should never argue with the officer. Cooperate with them if they make a lawful request. Keep in mind that a police officer does not have to tell you why you were pulled over. An officer can also ask you to step out of your car or stay inside. You should always do as they say and remain cordial with them.

Remember that the police officer is concerned about his safety, too. If you immediately start to reach for the contents of your glove compartment before the police officer asks for your proof of car insurance and registration, he may not feel at ease with you.

Wait for the officer to request any and all items, and then offer the documents to the officer in slow, calm movements.

You should be sure to have your license and registration on you every time you drive. Keeping your registration in your car can help prevent you from leaving it somewhere or losing it. When presenting a current car registration and car insurance, the police officer is likely to understand you’re a responsible car operator and driver.

If your registration and car insurance are invalid, the investigating officer is naturally more likely to write citations for several serious infractions.

Answer any questions the officer asks in a polite, direct way. Don’t raise your voice during the conversation with the police officer. Demonstrating good manners and deferring to the police officer in this situation is recommended.

Don’t admit any wrongdoing during the conversation. Wait for the officer to explain his concerns.  No matter what, do not lie to the officer. For any questions the officer has, you can just answer yes or no. You can also choose to remain silent and not to answer any questions at all.

Admitting to the officer that you’re driving over the speed limit is almost certain to result in his writing an expensive ticket.

Rather than attempt to determine guilt or innocence at the moment, ask the officer if he will give a warning rather than a citation. Regardless of the officer’s response to your request, remain polite and respectful during the conversation.

Acknowledge the officer’s statements but don’t say anything that implies guilt. Simply thank the officer for helping drivers like you to stay safe rather than incriminate yourself. If the officer writes a ticket, accept the ticket by writing your signature.

Unless the officer has legitimate grounds to search your car, legally you do not have to consent to a search. Again, Do not be rude to the officer. If you’re polite to the officer, they might let you off with a warning.

We hope you learned a lot about getting a warning ticket. A warning won’t affect your car insurance rates. You should take warnings seriously, though, and try to avoid moving citations.

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How can I get a warning rather than a ticket?

Moving violations, like speeding tickets, can raise your car insurance rates. Let’s say you’re only driving about five miles over the posted speed limit. You’re a mother driving a van, and you’ve never received a speeding ticket. 

The officer writes tickets on the basis of statistics as well as his department’s need for follow-up. His leaders prefer citations because the ticket is another statistic and proof of the officer’s job well done.

If the officer doesn’t write a ticket, he can opt to give you a verbal or written warning. Knowing how to regain your composure and presentation to the officer is the first step to avoiding a speeding ticket. 

Sometimes, presenting a valid reason for speeding may help to convince the officer that a warning, not a ticket, is sufficient. However, admitting to the officer that you were speeding is almost certain to result in the officer writing an expensive ticket

Regardless of the officer’s demeanor, remain polite and respectful during the conversation. If you’re lucky, you’ll only receive a warning. You will not have to pay a fine, and your car insurance premiums will not increase.

Why do police officers give out verbal or written warnings?

Most police officers will choose to give errant drivers a warning rather than a citation in many scenarios. According to the authors of Is There a Problem Officer?, the police officer may weigh the consequences of writing a ticket compared to the seriousness of the infraction that was committed.

For example, if the driver is a newly licensed teenager caught going 5 miles per hour over the speed limit, the police officer may opt to just warn the driver to slow down. The officer understands that the young driver’s parents will need to pay higher insurance rates if he issues a real citation.

If the young driver in the scenario is engaged in reckless driving at 20 miles above the posted speed limit, the police officer is likely to write the speeding citation. The police officer wants to protect other drivers on the road.

Ultimately, a driver with a clean DMV record is more likely to get a warning than those who do not have clean records.

So, do warnings affect insurance? You are now an expert on how warnings affect car insurance rates. Are you ready to buy car insurance with a warning? 

Even if you’ve received written warnings for minor traffic violations, you can easily compare car insurance car insurance rates with a warning by entering your ZIP code into our FREE quote comparison tool below to find affordable car insurance with a warning now.