4 Easily Avoidable Driving Infractions to Watch Out For

A man driving a car while looking at his phone
Hassan Ouajbir

Between the cost of a car, insurance, gas, and upkeep, driving is expensive. If you’re hit with tickets or citations while on the road, that high price tag just keeps going up. Almost everyone’s been guilty of the occasional illegal park or minor speeding, but there are plenty of costly violations that are actually super easy to avoid if you’re mindful of them.

Many of the most expensive driving penalties are associated with serious crimes (DUI, reckless driving, driving without a license, etc.), but we don’t need to tell you how to avoid those. To keep yourself from getting fined while driving, here are some easily avoidable infractions you can make sure to never get caught for.

1. Running Reds

Running red lights can cause serious traffic issues, but many drivers blow lights by accident. The difference between driving through a red light or a yellow light is usually a few seconds, so it’s pretty common for drivers to hit the gas on yellow and get caught running a red. These violations are costly – sometimes hundreds of dollars depending on your state and driving history.

The easiest way to dodge red light tickets is obvious: stop at yellow lights. Unless you’re already at the stoplight when it flips to yellow, hit the brakes and wait until your next green. It’s simply not worth the cost.

2. Obstructed Plates 

Many states have laws against blocking your driver’s license, and for good reason. However, these regulations to keep unmarked cars off the streets can end up costing regular citizens with dirty or dinged-up license plates. In California, for instance, toll booths and law enforcement officials are equipped with license reading devices. If one of those devices scans your plate and can’t read it for any reason, you can be hit with a fine.

One of our own Smart Wallet writers, Alice Ly, shares this:

“My dad got pulled over by a cop and got issued a ticket because his license plate was “obstructed.” He was informed to get a replacement plate and the ticket also had a court date to appear in as well. Replacement plates can cost $22 per plate and a replacement registration sticker is also $22. We ended up being able to clean the gunk off the plate, thus saving the cost of replacements, but the time and effort we had to go to the police department to get the fix-it ticket cleared, and then drive to court to hand in the cleared ticket was a pain. Plus we still ended up having to pay $25 to the court for processing the correction! So periodically, look at your plates to see if it’s clean as well as fastened on correctly.”

It can be easy to overlook a dingy license plate, but it can cost you time, and money if you don’t make sure it’s legible before hitting the streets.

A close up of a license plate as an example for traffic violation
Image provided by Alice Ly | The Smart Wallet

3. Not Wearing a Seatbelt

Plenty of cars have mechanisms that make it difficult or downright impossible to drive without buckling your seatbelt. Older vehicles, though, lack seatbelt monitors, and about 15 percent of drivers still don’t wear a seatbelt.

Every state fines first time offenders caught driving without a seatbelt, and the fees only go up with further violations. If you’ve gotten into the habit of leaving your seatbelt unbuckled, it could put a serious dent in your wallet down the road.

4. Using a Phone While Driving

Obviously texting while driving is dangerous, as is using your phone for anything hands-on while behind the wheel of a car. Naturally, then, some states ticket drivers who are holding a phone open to any app while driving. This makes sense in principle, but can also hurt drivers who use their phones as a GPS.

The best thing to do if you’re guilty of GPS-ing and driving is to get a phone mount. That way you can use your GPS hands-free and steer clear of any violations!

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