In the United States, car insurance is mandatory in all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and the territory of Puerto Rico. Although the minimum limits vary by state, drivers with minimum coverage in one state are automatically covered to the minimum limits in other states when they travel. However, it is crucial that they have at least the minimum amount of insurance required in their state. Drivers without auto insurance are subject to criminal penalties in the jurisdiction where they are charged and the penalties in some states are severe.
Most states impose fines on drivers who have no auto insurance; the fines can range from $100 to $1000. The amount depends on the jurisdiction and whether the driver has been previously cited for driving without auto insurance. Some states, like New York, impose fines which are increased every day the driver fails to obtain car insurance. Some states have automated systems which notify them when insurance on a vehicle registered in the state expires or is canceled.
Some states, like Indiana, provide for mandatory suspension of a driver’s license when a driver has no auto insurance. In Indiana, the first offense is a mandatory suspension of driving privileges for 90 days and a reinstatement fee of $150. Subsequent offenses raise the length of time of the suspension and the amount of the reinstatement costs. In California, a vehicle’s registration is suspended when the automated system indicates there is no insurance on the vehicle.
Jail or Community Service
In Minnesota, drivers convicted of driving without valid insurance for a third time face a jail sentence. In New Jersey, community service hours can be required in addition to a mandatory fine for first time offenders. Failure to perform community service for the required number of hours can result in charges of contempt of court and jail time. Uninsured drivers who are involved in an auto accident with injuries can face additional criminal penalties.
Higher Insurance Premiums
Drivers who are cited for driving without mandatory car insurance coverage usually have to pay higher insurance premiums. In states which use a points system for driving citations, the points accumulated for a single offense of driving without insurance can drive up the cost of insurance premiums. In a number of states, the insurance premiums will stay high for as many as five years. These additional charges can add up to well above $1000 over time and finding lower rates may be impossible.
Uninsured drivers can be held personally responsible for any damages or injuries which result from an accident. The cost of repairing a car can run into thousands of dollars and the total cost of injuries arising from an auto accident can be tens of thousands of dollars. The courts can order drivers with no car insurance to pay these damages every week or month until the full amount of the judgment is satisfied, which may take years. Failure to comply with the court order can result in jail time.
In addition to these penalties, uninsured drivers may have their cars towed or impounded; they can also find themselves responsible for towing costs and impound fees. The car may be held until the driver provides proof of current insurance and that can result in daily storage fees. Even if the driver opts to leave the car in impound, he can be held responsible for the accruing fees. Driving without car insurance can be a lot more costly than an auto insurance policy.