| Driving
Close-up of traffic cop writing ticket for traffic violation

Traffic tickets and parking citations cost money, money that most of us would rather spend on fun stuff like eating out or shopping for new clothes. Depending on your state and your car insurance company, a traffic ticket could actually end up costing you much more than the initial fine. Points on your driving record could lead to higher insurance premiums, notes U.S. News & World Report. In some states, drivers can also be charged “driver responsibility assessment fees” after a certain number of points. Thankfully, you can better avoid traffic tickets by following a few basic safe driving tips.

#1: Go the speed limit—really

Speeding still makes up about 54% of tickets, says Richard Diamond, managing editor at The Washington Times. Going over the speed limit is not only illegal, but it could also put you in a potentially life-threatening situation. The faster you go, the longer it takes for you to react to a change on the road, from flying debris to a car that’s changing lanes. Plus, as your speed increases, so does your braking distance. It takes about 120 feet for a vehicle to stop when it’s traveling 60 mph, says Edmunds.com.

#2: Watch the road, not your smartphone…or sandwich

Cell phone use is an obvious no-no, but so are things that simply distract you from the road, like putting on makeup or eating a snack. In 2013, 424,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver, an almost 10% increase since 2011 reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While only a few states have banned hand-held use of a cell phone while driving, 46 states have banned texting while driving. Officers see all kinds of accidents on a daily basis, ranging from fender-benders to serious tear-jerkers. If you appear to be focusing on something other than the road ahead of you, it’s possible that an officer could pull you over. While you may be issued a ticket, you may get a firm reminder to practice safe driving.

#3: Wear your seat belt—always

In some states, not wearing your seat belt is considered a “primary” law while in others, it’s considered “secondary.” Primary seat belt laws allow an officer to ticket a driver or passenger for not wearing their seat belt, regardless of whether any other traffic offense was taking place. Secondary seat belt laws mean that an officer can issue a ticket for not wearing a seat belt only when another citable traffic infraction has occurred. Laws vary by state, but also depend on the rider and the seat he or she is sitting in. Review your state’s seat belt laws before you decide not to “click it!”

#4: Leave enough space between you & the car in front of you

Like speeding, following the car in front of you too closely can be dangerous. Rear-end collisions account for approximately 23% of all motor vehicle crashes, resulting in about 2,000 deaths and 950,000 injuries, reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Texas Department of Insurance. Your best bet for avoiding the attention of a police officer and staying safe? Leave a “safety cushion” of about two seconds between you and the car in front of you.

#5: Maintain your car’s exterior

No need to wax and wash your car every day, but a little care could go a long way in the eyes of a law enforcement officer. “A good rule of thumb,” says Reader’s Digest, “is to keep your car maintained in such a way that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to drive it to a job interview.” This includes remembering to keep your tags and registration up to date AND remembering to put the little sticker or decal on your license plate when you do.

#6: Use your “blinker”

Not using a turn signal, or “blinker,” could result in a turn signal violation depending on your state. As simple as it may seem to “flick the switch,” drivers neglect to use their turn signals roughly 750 billion times a year! And the result? Turn signal neglect causes about 2 million crashes per year in the U.S., reports a study by the Society of Automotive Engineers. Do your best to remember to “flick the switch” when you’re changing lanes, turning, or entering traffic from a parking space or driveway. Even if it’s not required by law in your state, using your turn signal could help prevent a dangerous crash. Need a quick driver’s ed refresher? Watch this fun video about how to merge lanes!

The best way to avoid getting a ticket? Be a safe driver. Practicing safe driving could not only help you avoid getting pulled over, but it could also help you avoid being involved in a car accident. Talk to one of our friendly agents at 1-877-GO-DIRECT (1-877-463-4732) to learn more about how affordable auto insurance could help out in the event of an auto accident and learn more about your state’s car insurance requirements.