What is Traffic Violations Law?

A look at common violations and possible consequences

By Super Lawyers staff | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on January 30, 2023

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Driving is a routine activity for most adults, and it is likely you will be confronted with a traffic violation at some point in your driving career. Ordinarily, these situations are straightforward and can be resolved by paying a fine. Sometimes, however, traffic violations are more serious—especially if they lead to an accident.

The following is a look at the basics of traffic infractions, including some common violations and possible consequences. If you decide to challenge a violation, you might find that it’s helpful to speak with a lawyer.


When a driver violates a traffic law governing the operation of a motor vehicle, local law enforcement may issue a traffic citation. Violations range in seriousness from a simple failure to signal while changing lanes to a charge of driving under the influence. Common traffic violations include:

  • Driving over the speed limit
  • Driving on a suspended license
  • Running a red light or stop sign
  • Failing to signal
  • Crossing the median
  • Improperly driving in the carpool lane
  • Failing to stop for a school bus or pedestrian
  • Not wearing a seatbelt
  • Driving while texting or talking on a cellphone
  • Driving on the shoulder
  • Passing in a no-passing zone
  • Reckless driving
  • Hit and runs
  • Moving violations
  • Non-moving violations, such as parking in front of fire hydrant

Most violations don’t require any kind of intent on the part of the driver, meaning: You didn’t have to speed on purpose. What matters is that you did speed. Because of this, violations have to be challenged based on the officer’s evidence-gathering procedures rather than on whether you had the necessary intent.


Traffic violations are handled differently in each jurisdiction. For example, some jurisdictions issue only civil infractions that are payable by a fine and do not reflect on your criminal record. Other states criminalize speeding and other traffic violations, so they appear on your criminal record and can sometimes be punished with jail time.

Most states use a points system to track violations. If you are licensed in one of these states, each violation will add a set number of points to your driving record. The number of points per offense varies by state vehicle code and driving laws. Getting too many violation points on your license can lead to heightened insurance premiums or even a suspension of your driving privileges.

If you are issued a citation for a traffic violation in a state you’re not a resident of, it is likely the state you’re licensed in will be notified and will add points to your record. It may be possible to remove points by maintaining a clean record for a set amount of time or by taking driver education courses. It is important to note that these points are different from the ones your insurance company may assign to violations, as your insurer may have set procedures for removing them from your record.

Common Questions

Below are some common questions you might want to consider when meeting with an attorney for the first time.

  1. Will I face criminal charges for my traffic violation?
  2. How do I fight a traffic ticket?
  3. What if I refuse to pay my traffic fines or speeding ticket?
  4. How do I fight a driver’s license suspension?
  5. What happens if I don’t show up to my traffic court date?
  6. Can I get points removed from my license? How will points impact my insurance rates?
  7. Can I do traffic school?
  8. How will this affect my car insurance?

Finding the Right Attorney for Your Needs

It is important to approach the right type of attorney—someone who can help you through your entire case. To do so, you can visit the Super Lawyers directory, and use the search box to find a lawyer based on your legal issue or location.

To help you get started, you may want to consider looking for a lawyer who has experience with traffic violation law.

Why Should I Talk to a Lawyer?

Traffic cases can go from straightforward to complex quickly, especially if you want to challenge your citation, or there were injuries or allegations of drunk driving. Your lawyer will know how to handle every turn your case could take, and they can explain the law to you. Together, you and your lawyer will decide the best way to approach your case, and whether you are open to any plea agreements.

A traffic ticket attorney will further be able to anticipate potential problems with your case and give legal advice on how to approach them. They will also keep track of deadlines, court appearances, and how to file paperwork with the necessary courts and agencies—giving you less to worry about.

What do I do next?

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