How Police Catch Uninsured Drivers

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Police use three common methods to catch uninsured drivers. (Photo: @photovs via Twenty20)
Technological advances have not been lost on the world of traffic law enforcement. Police in a growing number of states have the ability to tap into a well-maintained state database of uninsured drivers. They still catch uninsured motorists the old-fashioned way, but now they can check to see if you have car insurance before they even get out of their cruisers.

How Uninsured Drivers Get Caught

Driving without car insurance is still considered a secondary offense in all 50 states. A police officer is not allowed to check your license plate against the uninsured motorists database and pull you over if he or she finds that you don’t have insurance. You must be pulled over for something else initially.
There are several ways that an uninsured driver could get caught. All three are completely legal and you’ll never see them coming.

1. The Standard Checkpoint

Yes, traffic officers still do this from time to time and always when you least expect it. They will simply set up a surprise checkpoint, pull you over, and ask to see your license, registration, and proof of insurance. This is really the only method that allows the police to check for insurance without having another reason for pulling you over.
Don’t think for one minute that you can get away with flashing an expired car insurance card or giving them an expired auto insurance policy number. They will figure it out, cite you, and tow your vehicle if you don’t have a current car insurance policy. According to Auto Insurance Center, Oklahoma police towed 11 vehicles at one checkpoint and wrote dozens of citations for motorists who were driving without the proper car insurance.

2. Pulling You Over for a Traffic Violation

This is the main method for catching uninsured drivers. The police can pull you over for speeding, rolling through a stop sign, or even a burned-out headlamp. They will get your license, registration and insurance card, take it back to their cruiser, and check your information.
All they have to do is call the 800 number on your insurance card to find out whether you are currently insured by the insurance provider listed on the card.

3. Pulling You Over and Using ALPR Cameras

The new high-tech method that police are utilizing to catch uninsured drivers is the Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) camera. It isn’t available in every state, but it is in most. The officer doesn’t even have to approach your car to find out if you have a valid car insurance policy.
The camera snaps an image of your vehicle license plate and the on-board computer tells police if you are listed in the state’s database of uninsured drivers. They still have to pull you over for something else, but they don’t even have to ask you for your insurance card to find out if you have car insurance.
Getting caught driving without car insurance can cost you $500 to $5,000 and make it difficult for you to get insurance down the road. Obey the rules of the road and protect yourself and other drivers by getting enough car insurance to keep you safe.