Almost every state requires some form of proof of insurance or financial responsibility prior to operating a vehicle on public roads. Many states will not even let a driver take their driver’s license skills test without proof of insurance.
Driving without insurance can cost more than just money. If you are caught without proof of insurance, you are looking at fines at a minimum. But if you’re caught driving completely uninsured the severity of the penalties increase and can even include jail time. Here’s an overview of the penalties for missing proof of insurance rather than not having insurance at all, plus what could happen if you don’t have insurance, and what could happen if you have an accident while driving without insurance.
No insurance versus missing proof
Keep in mind, you must have proof of insurance or financial responsibility on you at all times when operating a vehicle. This document should meet the guidelines of any state you operate a vehicle in, not just your home state. If your documentation is damaged or lost, immediately contact your insurance provider for a replacement copy as, while they may be less severe, there are penalties for driving without it, which can include:
- A ticket
- Additional court-related fees
In addition, some states accept proof of insurance via cell phone, an option which may or may not be available from your provider. Check if your state accepts insurance proof on a smartphone, and then find out if your provider offers this option. However, it is recommended to still keep a paper form of your insurance proof as back up.
What happens if you’re caught driving uninsured?
So what happens if you are caught driving without car insurance? If you are pulled over for a minor traffic violation, where no crash or injury has taken place and are found to be uninsured, the penalties can be quite serious. While they vary by state, some of the most common penalties include:
- Go to jail. Some states may impose jail time regardless of an accident.
- Get a ticket(s) and be responsible for the resulting fines.
- Have your driver’s license suspended, canceled, or revoked, depending on your state.
- Get your vehicle registration suspended.
- Have your vehicle towed. If you are unable to drive your vehicle due to lack of insurance, your vehicle may be towed and held until proof of insurance is presented to the tow yard.
Accidents while uninsured
If you are in an accident while uninsured, the penalties can be even more harsh, especially if there is an injury or severe property damage. You may incur the above penalties as well as:
- Be required to carry SR-22 insurance. While not actually a form of car insurance coverage, this document states you meet the minimum insurance coverage requirements for a specific time period in your state. Requirements for an SR-22 vary by state and are often the result of a serious incident. This document may also be called a “certificate of financial responsibility.”
- Possibility of heavily increased insurance premiums due to a “damaged” driving record.
- Be sued for damage if you injure someone or damage property.
While insurance costs money, driving uninsured or without proper proof of financial responsibility may end up costing far more, including your time and ability to legally operate a motor vehicle.
Adhere to the laws and be sure you have the coverage required by your state. Keep your insurance active by paying premiums on time and always keep proof of insurance on you while driving.