Publisher's Note: This article originally appeared in the Beaufort Observer.
The next time you are speeding or tempted to do so you might want to remember this information: North Carolina's car insurance premiums are among the lowest in the country—that is, as long as drivers stay on the right side of the law. Those who are assessed speeding tickets face many expenses on the way to recovering their good record. First, if they're caught going 15 mph over the speed limit, they will—in most cases—pay a $30 ticket, plus $188 in court costs. They'll also receive points on their license.
Legal penalties are just the beginning. North Carolina's Department of Insurance maintains a separate system for violations affecting auto insurance. Drivers receive points against their insurance—the amount depends on the speed limit in the zone where the driver was caught and the speed they were driving—and premium increases that last for three years. The true cost of a speeding ticket in North Carolina is more than 53 times the cost of the actual ticket—drivers pay an average of $1,619.63 for a $30 speeding ticket.
What to Do If You Get a Speeding Ticket in North Carolina
Fortunately, drivers who are caught speeding in North Carolina have a few good options, as long as they haven't had any violations within the previous three years. Agent Shaun Adams of S.J. Adams Insurance in Raleigh says, "We'll recommend our clients go to an attorney and get the charge reduced to 10 over"—that is, 10 mph over the speed limit, which carries a lesser penalty. If the driver is successful, there'll be no points assessed on his or her record and the insurance premium won't change.
Drivers may also enter a Prayer for Judgment Continued (PJC). In this case, a driver may technically receive a conviction, but without insurance consequences. However, each household is only allowed one PJC every three years for insurance purposes, so drivers should use this privilege carefully. "If you get another ticket within three years, you'll pay the penalty for both," Adams warns.
Those unable to lodge a PJC or reduce their charge will receive insurance points and a premium hike at renewal. If their record is still good enough, Adams suggests they look for an insurer with a lower base rate: "Sometimes you can get a better deal," he says.
• While North Carolina's average car insurance premium is a very reasonable $902.67, drivers who are caught speeding will pay an average of $1,369.89 each year—a hike of 51.81%, or $467.21—provided they switch insurers.
• As in many states, North Carolina drivers experience premium increases for three years after a traffic offense. This means they're actually on the hook for an average of $1,401.63 in additional insurance payments as the result of one ticket.
• On average, a driver convicted of driving 15 miles an hour over the speed limit will pay $1,619.63 once fines, court fees and three years' worth of car insurance increases are factored in.