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People who commit crimes are criminals, people who commit felonies (heinous crime) are felons, is there a specific word for people who commit traffic violations (minor crime) i.e. crosses a double yellow line, runs red light, etc. Is there a word for people who commit these types of infractions?

So for clarification, the violations I'm talking about are ones you would be ticketed from by a police officer, but would not receive jail time for. These violations are in the context of California law. Also, I am looking for a word that would describe someone who habitually commits these violations.

Sentence: X run the risk of getting ticketed, or even losing their licence, because they constantly ignore traffic laws.

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It would help to have a little bit of context for your usage here; the basic term "violator" or "offender" would be fine if you want to refer to the person who committed a specific offense, but would likely not be appropriate if you want to indicate that they do so habitually. – LessPop_MoreFizz Jan 15 at 2:02
There's three different classifications for crimes in the US: felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions. Traffic violation is not one of them. – Mazura Jan 15 at 2:41
@Mazura Infractions are not crimes. Many traffic violations in California are infractions. – deadrat Jan 15 at 3:48
@deadrat - The point I forgot to make is that it varies from state to state, but it doesn't matter because it's one of those three. An infraction is not a crime? Intriguing... I'll have to research that further. Something to do with ordinances instead of laws? – Mazura Jan 15 at 4:03
@Mazura No, it has to do with criminal procedure. For instance, no jury trial or guaranteed counsel for you if you're accused of an infraction. But no jail time either. At least in CA. – deadrat Jan 15 at 4:15
up vote 3 down vote accepted

You could consider using habitual traffic offender for someone who habitually commits those violations you mentioned. According to Washington State Department of Licensing (reference is not available on California DMV), it is defined as:

A driver who, within a 5-year period, has been:

Convicted of 3 or more offenses listed in RCW 46.65.020(1).


Found to have been convicted of or committed 20 or more moving violations listed in WAC 308-104-160. The violations must have occurred within a 5-year period. If more than 1 of these offenses are committed within a 6-hour period, they’re only counted as 1 on the first occasion.

The Law Place defines it as:

... and receiving 15 or more moving violations within five years.

Moving violations:

A moving violation is any violation of the law committed by the driver of a vehicle while it is in motion. The term "motion" distinguishes it from other motor vehicle violations, such as paperwork violations (which include violations involving automobile insurance, registration and inspection), parking violations, or equipment violations.


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Interesting. I was somewhat hoping for a single word to describe it, but if none exist, this is probably the best phrase that has the meaning I want. – Dragonrage Jan 15 at 8:35
@Dragonrage IMHO, the reason there is not a single word is that it is not very often used like felon, petty criminals, or juvenile (young) offenders, etc. I mean everybody is a traffic offender in a way and it is not a serious crime. Traffic offender is the term, I think. :-) – Rathony Jan 15 at 8:41

I'd suggest, minor offender.

minor offense: noun A criminal infraction less serious than a misdemeanor. These infractions may not even be tracked as part of a criminal record, depending on state and local laws. Generally, these types of infractions carry penalties of monetary fines and/or up to 90 days in jail. Depending on the state and local statutes, an example of a minor offense is a parking violation or traffic (driving) offense. YourDictionary

In light of your edit, consider [minor] traffic scofflaw.


One who habitually violates laws, especially laws that do not involve serious criminal offenses. AHD

A contemptuous law violator M-W

Traffic scofflaws run the risk of getting ticketed, or even losing their license, because they constantly ignore traffic laws.

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You can't go to jail over an infraction in California, where infractions are violations of statues but aren't a criminal matter. Don't make me look up the other 50 jurisdictions. Or go outside US law. – deadrat Jan 15 at 3:59
@Elian - You don't seem to have filled in the example sentence correctly. Surely it should be "Traffic scofflaws run the risk of getting ticketed because they routinely ignore traffic laws"? – AndyT Jan 15 at 9:26

I would suggest the term transgressor

Examples from the net

  • The fliers also list how much a transgressor would have to pay if ticketed, and warn that real tickets will be passed out in the future if parking laws continue to be ignored,...

  • Whether a frequent offender or occasional transgressor, parking fines can be paid easily through Ticketzen, a mobile app that only requires motorists to scan a ticket bar code to pay it off via credit or debit card.

  • Third Stage: If 24 and 34 points are accumulated, the transgressor is required to attend a special course on driver safety.

  • Red-faced officials from the department of justice and the department of transport are working to scrap the amendment in the Criminal Procedure Act, which stipulates that a traffic officer can arrest a road transgressor only after getting the go-ahead from a magistrate.

  • Edinburgh City Council must back up its rhetoric and ensure all companies are aware of their obligations and to use every power available to name and shame them and maximise the fines for transgressors.

If the infraction involves flouting the speed limit, the driver can be called a speeding motorist

If the transgressor is a repeat offender then I would suggest the following:

  1. Regular transgressors run the risk of getting ticketed, or even losing their licence, because they constantly ignore traffic laws.

  2. Having more police on the roads, stopping and awarding black points to those who break the rules, will force repeat transgressors to rethink their behaviour.

  3. Frequent transgressors who park in residential area are first made aware of their obligations and asked to move. Ultimately they can be reported to the Traffic Commissioner who can revoke their licence.

  4. Repeat offenders run the risk of getting ticketed, or even losing their licence, because they constantly ignore traffic laws.

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You may call this person a misdemeanant. Definition:

A person convicted of a misdemeanor or guilty of misconduct.

Definition of misdemeanor:

A minor wrongdoing.

You may also call this person an infractor. Definition:

One that infracts or infringes: violator, lawbreaker

(Oxford Dictionaries Online: misdemeanant, misdemeanor)

(Merriam-Webster: infractor)

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Who says either of those? No one I've ever heard. – Steven Littman Jan 15 at 1:44
A traffic violation is not a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is substantially more severe. – LessPop_MoreFizz Jan 15 at 2:01
@Kyle note the use of or there. Misdemeanor traffic offenses are generally quite severe, and can often carry jail time. – LessPop_MoreFizz Jan 15 at 2:14
@LessPop_MoreFizz The fact is that a moving violation can be a misdemeanor. My answer covers both types of moving violations (misdemeanant or infractor). – Kyle Jan 15 at 2:17
@Kyle it could be - but it's very clearly not the sort of violation being asked about in this question. – LessPop_MoreFizz Jan 15 at 2:18

In the UK some traffic violations (e.g. speeding) are technical crimes (example: speeding), known as traffic offences, and some are merely administrative offences (example: driving in a bus lane). I doubt however that a layman would refer to someone who had been caught driving at 35 mph in a 30 mph zone as a 'criminal' unless it was an attempt at humour. I suspect there are similar jurisdictional complexities elsewhere.

The layman's word we would use for both would be 'offender'.

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A petty criminal, perhaps.

Petty - Of secondary or lesser importance, rank, or scale; minor; subordinate (OED)

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I think of a petty criminal who picks pockets or steals office supplies, not a traffic offender. Um, there's your word. – Steven Littman Jan 15 at 1:43
"Improper Lane Usage is a petty offense, punishable up to a $1000 fine in addition to Court Supervision for up to 24 months. A ticket for Improper Lane Usage often arises from a traffic accident." A petty offender. – Mazura Jan 15 at 4:22
@Mazura - I reckon that's better. Post it and I'll vote for it. – Dan Jan 15 at 11:25
Just a suggestion; all you, Dan. – Mazura Jan 15 at 18:13

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