The Most Expensive Tickets You Can Get Driving a Car

The penalties for minor driving violations are becoming harsher across America. If you veer into a bike lane, the offense could cost you hundreds of dollars in some states, for example. Yet those fines are light compared to major offenses, such as the cost of a DUI.

Serious driving offenses hurt you in a number of ways. In addition to the actual fine and related court costs, you could end up spending thousands more to get back a suspended or revoked license. Even a minor traffic ticket could end up costing you your license and hundreds in fees if you don’t pay right away.

Critics of harsh traffic penalties say suspended licenses can cost a state as much as $140 million in lost tax revenue. When someone can’t drive, they can’t work, and everybody hurts because of it. Until we see reform, drivers should avoid the offenses that are very expensive to fix. Whether they raise your insurance premiums or cost thousands in fines, your life could change quickly.

Here are 10 of the most expensive tickets you can get driving a car.

10. Speeding 6 to 10 mph over the limit

police officers writing ticket

You might luck out with a warning, but don’t count on it. | Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Speeding tickets have jumped considerably in recent years, and in many cases it’s merely a way for states to generate revenue. Even driving 10 miles per hour or less above the posted limit will land you fines. But the expense only begins there. According to a study by Insurance Zebra, drivers’ insurance rates also go up an average of $270 after that ticket.

9. Failing to yield to emergency vehicles

Firefighters help overdose victim

You could get in the way of emergency care. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Those flashing lights on cop cars, firetrucks, and ambulances are there for a reason. Emergency personnel need to move without interference in order to respond to a crime scene or save a life. Drivers who are either too careless or in too much of a hurry to yield will pay a price. California, for example, charges fines for a failure to yield to an emergency vehicle starting at $490. You’ll see your insurance premiums rise, as well.

8. Speeding 26 mph over the limit

Ford Police Interceptor Utility

Those extra few miles per hour will cost you. | Ford

If you thought a minor speeding ticket was expensive, don’t get pulled over in California. Exceeding the speed limit by 26 miles per hour there could land you a ticket of $490 to start. No matter where you live, you will watch your insurance rates jump by hundreds of dollars for speeding at such a high clip.

7. Violations resulting in bodily injury

Auto accident involving two cars

If you harm anyone in an accident, expect your insurance to go way up. |

Speeding and endangering people triggers one fee schedule; hurting others because of your speeding will cost you much more. For a violation resulting in bodily harm, you’re looking at a fine of about $1,000. Of course, this figure only marks the beginning of your financial hit. In some cases, you will need a lawyer to defend you in court against criminal charges. Meanwhile, you will likely lose your license and watch insurance premiums rise.

6. Driving with a blocked license plate's electric license plate cover

This automatic license plate cover will obscure front and back plates simultaneously (and get you in a lot of trouble). | Rugift

Many states have remote sensors that read your license plates before assessing a fine. You might have seen these systems in carpool lanes, in large intersections (for red light violations), and on toll bridges. Drivers who disguise their vehicle (and thus the driver’s identity) in any way will pay severely if caught. Fines for interfering with plate readers start at $1,105 before you factor in the hike in insurance rates and the potential loss of your license.

5. At-fault accidents

car accident

You’ll pay big money if it’s your fault. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

In no-fault accident states, drivers carry personal injury insurance, so drivers cannot sue the offending party and create unnecessary legal wrangling. However, in the rest of the country, such wrangling continues. If you are found at fault in an accident, your insurance provider will pay through the nose to cover medical bills and property damage. Naturally, you are the one who will foot the bill in the end. Insurance Zebra found insurance increased about $612 for at-fault accidents.

4. Interference with traffic devices

Red light stops traffic in Chicago

You don’t want to mess with them. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

If you want to see the highest fines a state hands out, try tampering with traffic devices, such as stoplights or stop signs. Even when this act does not result in injury, you will see a fine of $2,130 for, say, disabling a red light near the entrance to your cul-de-sac. While this violation involves some serious criminal activity, we imagine they didn’t need to write the law unless they caught someone doing it.

3. Reckless driving

Young woman applying makeup in car

Just focus on driving, and save yourself the money. |

Of the many offenses someone can commit while driving, Insurance Zebra found reckless driving violations yield some of the biggest insurance hikes. Without any violations, drivers nationwide enjoyed insurance premiums of about $1,323. But drivers saw their premiums rise to $2,320 after reckless driving violations. Avoiding this expensive mistake is simple: Pay attention to the road and don’t do anything obviously illegal (i.e., a U-turn over a divider).

2. Racing

Fast and the Furious 6

Save it for the movies. | Universal

You’re neither Steve McQueen in Bullitt nor one of the crew in the Fast and Furious franchise. So why are you racing folks down public roads? The authorities won’t care about the answer. They’ll just arrest you and fine you for their trouble. Once you get your license back, expect your insurance premiums to skyrocket. According to Insurance Zebra, national premiums after a racing violation averaged $2,368.

1. DUI

trooper pulls over car

It’s one of the most dangerous things you can do on the road. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Of all the dangerous and disruptive things you can do behind the wheel, driving drunk will get you in the most trouble. You can face jail time in some states. Add in court fees, legal services, and the breathalyzer device you will have to install in your vehicle, and you’ll be paying thousands in fees. When you finally get your license back, your insurance premium could rise to about $2,380, according to Insurance Zebra.