Penalties For Driving Without Insurance
Insurance typically covers some or all of the costs stemming from an accident, including for property damage and medical expenses. Your insurance may also be able to help cover the cost of litigation, including for any settlement awarded against you to the other driver. Without car insurance, you could be held liable for expenses that you cannot afford and your assets may be seized. That is why you should always drive with proof of insurance. However, you may be wondering if driving without insurance is merely recommended or actually required. Below we will look at the legal requirements regarding carrying auto insurance and what the penalties for driving without insurance.
Can You Drive Without Auto Insurance?
In effect, all states require drivers to purchase auto insurance. Most states require at a minimum liability coverage for injury and property damage claims that may be made against the insured person. The minimum liability required for liability insurance varies widely from state to state. Florida, for example, requires a minimum of $10,000 coverage for each person injured in an accident, while in Alaska the minimum is $50,000.
Additionally, many states require drivers to carry personal injury protection (PIP) and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. PIP covers some or all of the medical expenses for the insured person. Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage covers expenses stemming from an accident involving another driver who has no or little insurance.
There are two states that technically don’t require insurance: New Hampshire and Wisconsin require only that the driver show that he or she is able to cover the cost of an accident. This alternative to car insurance is usually done through either self-insurance, depositing funds with a state agency, or purchasing a surety bond from a licensed company. These alternatives, however, aren’t practical or affordable for most individuals and both states still require a minimum amount of proven financial responsibility. Effectively, even in New Hampshire and Wisconsin car insurance is still required.
Penalties for Driving Without Insurance
Each state is different when it comes to penalties for driving without auto insurance. Some states impose relatively light penalties, while in other states the consequences can be severe. Some of the most common penalties include:
- License suspension
- Traffic ticket
- Loss of vehicle registration
- Vehicle towed and impounded
- Being required to carry an SR-22 guarantee of insurance
- Fines and fees related to registering your vehicle again, towing costs, and impoundment
A conviction will also show up on your driving record and in some states you may receive demerit points. Generally, for a first offence you will not face jail time. In some states, however, imprisonment is a possibility for repeat offenses. In Texas, for example, a subsequent conviction for driving without insurance is a class B misdemeanor subject to up to 180 days in prison.
How Much Is a Ticket for Driving Without Insurance?
Again, the cost of a ticket for driving without car insurance varies widely from state to state. California, for example, has a rather low penalty, with a first offense resulting in a traffic ticket costing between $100 and $200. Idaho has a first offense penalty of just $75. In New York, on the other hand, a traffic ticket can cost as much as $1,500, which is on top of fees you will have to pay to get your registration renewed and your car back if it was towed. In Texas, a first offense will land you a ticket of up to $500. For subsequent offenses, the cost of a ticket usually increases dramatically. Remember that in many states insurers are required to notify the relevant state agencies if a driver’s insurance has lapsed. If your Department of Motor Vehicles finds out that your insurance has lapsed then you could be fined and lose your registration.
The penalties associated with driving without insurance are serious. Keep in mind, however, that if you get into an accident and you don’t have insurance then the consequences could be much worse. The best way to protect yourself while on the road is to not take any chances and to make sure you have the coverage you need.