Published: March 2015
You can pay for your coffee with a digital wallet. Door locks can be opened with a smartphone. And you can even board a plane with a digital boarding pass. But if you are stopped by the police or in an accident, do you have to dig through your glove box for the paper copy of your insurance card, or can you show the officer an electronic version?
Whether you can use a digital card as proof of insurance depends on your state's law. According to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, as of January 2015, 37 states permit drivers to use an electronic copy of their insurance card during a traffic stop. The acceptance of this technology has grown significantly since March 2012, when Idaho became the first state to accept electronic insurance cards.
The availability of electronic proof of insurance and the methods of display vary by insurance company. Some insurers display an electronic copy of the auto ID card within their mobile app. Other companies allow customers to download a digital version of the auto ID cards from their website. Customers can then show proof of insurance with any digital device, including a smartphone or tablet. States that allow electronic proof also accept paper copies of insurance cards for drivers who prefer the traditional format. Digital insurance cards offer obvious benefits, namely, allowing customers immediate access to proof of their coverage.
Privacy and who is responsible if the law enforcement officer accidentally damages a driver's digital device are concerns that have been raised by consumers and lawmakers. Some states, such as Rhode Island, have addressed these concerns in their legislation. Rhode Island amended its law to include a provision that if a driver uses a mobile device for proof of insurance, the police officer is prohibited from viewing other information on the phone or tablet. Additionally, the law now specifies that motorists are responsible for any damage to the devices while in the possession of law enforcement.
Check with your local motor vehicle department or law enforcement office to find out whether your state accepts electronic proof of insurance, and if so, under which circumstances or conditions.