Personal Finance

How to show electronic proof of insurance

Question: My state now allows proof of car insurance to be shown to police officers via electronic means. Is there a certain way the proof should be displayed on my phone? 

Answer:  Due to newly approved revisions to state laws, there are now several states that accept electronic proof of auto insurance when requested by a police officer during a traffic stop.  Presently this includes:   Alabama , Arizona, California , Idaho, Louisiana and Minnesota.  

Alabama also accepts electronic proof of car insurance when registering your vehicle.  Colorado law allows electronic proof of insurance for motor vehicle registration purposes and is considering legislation that would extent electronic proof to traffic stops as well.

There are over 20 other states considering electronic proof of coverage bills or proposals during the 2013 legislative sessions including: Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

We think this is a great step for these states to modernize the method in which they accept proof of insurance and allow more people to live paperless, if they so choose.  It should make showing proof of insurance at a traffic stop less of a hassle and cut down on tickets for driving without proof of insurance. While those are minor fix-it tickets if you have valid insurance, they can take several hours at the courthouse to clear up.  (See " Proof of insurance: Paper or plastic ")

Just as the minimum state required auto insurance coverages and limits vary greatly from one state to the next, the wording for laws stating what each state will accept as proof of insurance varies. 

The methods most talked about for showing the electronic proof are a PDF from your insurer that you save to your phone (or tablet) or downloading a copy of your valid insurance ID card from your insurance carrier's mobile app.  We checked with officers in California and Arizona about what specific electronic proof they were accepting now.

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer we spoke said the preference was an official looking proof of insurance, such as a PDF from your insurer that is stored on your electronic device or an insurance card that you downloaded from your insurer's application.  However, he said since the law doesn't specifically exclude a picture of your insurance ID card that is stored on your phone, it should be accepted by officers as valid proof of auto insurance.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) representative we talked to said that she can only go by what the state statute says, which is that you may show proof on a wireless device, and doesn't give specifics on what that should look like, so showing a photo you have taken with your phone of the card to an officer should also work.

Since you live in one of states that now allow electronic proof of car insurance, we'd suggest contacting the state police to verify what officers are allowing at traffic stops.   If the law there is written as openly as California's (that simply says "evidence of financial responsibility may be provided using a mobile electronic device"), it's likely a photo of your card will work. 

While electronic proof may be the easy way to show proof of insurance, we would still recommend carrying a paper version in your car as backup.  There is always the chance you will be pulled over by an officer unaware of the new law -- or be unlucky enough to have your electronic device's battery die at the wrong time.  (See "What do insurance cards look like?")

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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