Smartphones are amazing. Now they can get you out of a
Twenty-four states now allow drivers to show electronic proof of
insurance coverage during a traffic stop, according to the Property
Casualty Insurance Association of America (PCI). Rather than root
around in your glovebox for an insurance card (that you may or may
not have remembered to replace with the new one), you simply hand
the officer your phone.
Approving electronic proof of coverage laws so far in 2013 are
Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine,
Mississippi, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah,
Washington and Wyoming. They join Alabama, Arizona, California,
Idaho, Louisiana, Minnesota and Virginia.
Bills await signatures from governors in Florida, Illinois,
Missouri and Wisconsin, PCI says, and bills are still moving
through legislatures in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
You trust a lot of your life
to a phone
. Why not your insurance, too?
But what exactly am I showing them?
No one's nailed down exactly what constitutes acceptable
electronic proof of insurance. California's law, for example, reads
simply that "evidence of financial responsibility may be provided
using a mobile electronic device."
A California Highway Patrol officer we spoke with said the
preference was for an official-looking proof of insurance, such as
a PDF from your insurer stored on your electronic device or an
insurance card downloaded from your insurer's mobile application.
However, since the law doesn't specifically exclude a picture of
your insurance ID card that is stored on your phone, he said, it
should be accepted by officers as valid proof of auto
The Arizona Department of Public Safety representative gave a
You may be tempted to just gin something up. Don't. Faking an
insurance card is a crime. In Nebraska, for example, fabricating an
insurance card is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison
and/or a $10,000 fine. (See "
Did you buy fake car insurance?
And a fake card won't do you much good in many states, because
you can't outrun the Internet. Real-time verification systems allow
law enforcement officers to check for insurance coverage against
the car's license plate in a few seconds.
The worst that could happen is …
Driving without proof of insurance is very different from
driving without insurance.
CarInsurance.com consumer analyst Penny Gusner notes that
failure to provide proof of insurance typically results in a fix-it
ticket that doesn't affect car insurance rates much, if at all.
"Show the court adequate proof and the violation is usually
dismissed," she says. "It's a minor offense at worst."
Even so, Gusner recommends that you continue to carry a paper
version in your car as backup in case you are pulled over by an
officer unaware of the new law -- or be unlucky enough to have a
A no-insurance conviction is very different and can result in a
big fine and a suspension of your driver's license and vehicle
registration. When you finally do buy a policy, Gusner says, you'll
pay much higher rates. (See "
Getting insured again: How expensive?