Driving is an essential part of life for many Americans. We are not simply talking about road trips here, which have been the subject of many memorable stateside movies. We are also referring to it being an everyday activity for most, whether it’s heading to work or to school. Getting your driver’s license and your very own vehicle is also a rite of passage to becoming a grown-up. However, it is undeniable that driving can also be among the most stressful ways to get from one place to another.

A big chunk of the stress comes from penalties due to traffic violations. Rules are put in place to make our roads safer for everyone, sure, but the fines we face for a random mistake can be too much to take. Some statistics show that millions of traffic tickets are issued yearly in the United States alone. With many costing more than $100 and the majority of people not contesting their fines, others have seen the system as akin to a business that is earning billions of dollars in a year.

For every driver, it is worth knowing what you’re risking everytime you disobey the law. On this page, we will be discussing the different tickets there are that might cost you a lot of money, your car insurance, or even your driver’s license.

Traffic laws differ from one state to another, and laws in the United States will not necessarily apply to other countries. It is for this reason that it pays to know or consult experts on the laws that are specific to your state. But generally, in the United States, offenses on the road fall under two categories: infractions and violations.

Infractions are the lesser evil of the two. To be charged with one does not mean that you have committed a crime, but you will be fined and will, of course, have to pay. There is also no jail time for an infraction so that should not be a worry, but the difference in the amount of fines can be significant in different states. Many minor traffic offenses are of this kind.

Meanwhile, violations are much more severe. Unlike infractions, violations are usually criminal offenses. There is a good reason for this: often, they can cause or have already led to harm on you, on other people and/or on properties. Reckless driving and DUIs fall under violations, but minor offenses that are normally categorized as infractions can be considered violations depending on certain circumstances. When you are charged with a violation, you can use all the rights granted to criminal defendants in your country such as a jury trial and a lawyer.

Traffic offenses can also be classified as either moving or non-moving violations. These are pretty self-explanatory but the former tends to be more severe as they can cause harm. Tickets that fall under moving violations include distracted driving, speeding, DUI and reckless driving, among others.

Non-moving violations often are fined less than moving violations, and they are not noted on your driving record. Parking tickets are perhaps the most common, and depending on your state, this can cover parking by an expired meter, on a handicapped zone, and in front of a hydrant. While not as expensive as, say, speeding tickets, parking tickets can pile up when not addressed immediately. The number of allowable parking tickets before a bigger sanction is applied differs among states. Non-moving violations also include vehicle modifications that are not allowed by the law, such as obstructions on the windshield, illegal lights and dark window tints. Failing to repair some parts of your vehicle can also prompt a police officer to leave you a ticket.

What these will cost you will be often dictated by your location and the severity of the offense. Besides hefty fines, increase in insurance premiums, jail time, and revoking of licenses can also be applied. You may even lose your vehicle unless fines are paid. It is an added hassle, that’s for sure.

All hope is not lost, though  — often, you have the right to challenge your offense especially if you have been charged unfairly. We will be briefing you with the different kinds there are, tips on how to address each one effectively, and pointers on what you should and should not do when you are accused of a traffic offense. Ideally, you would not have to know. But let’s face it, all drivers are likely to commit occasional driving errors; you’re likely to fare better when armed with knowledge than none at all.