D.C. Police Step up Enforcement of Insurance Rule to Catch Scofflaws

July 18, 2005

It’s a small piece of paper, but if a cop pulls over a driver in the District of Columbia who doesn’t have it, it could be an expensive mistake.

Starting Saturday, police in the nation’s capital began to step up enforcement of the law requiring drivers to have proof of insurance. Along with license and registration, anyone pulled over will have to show an insurance card to the officer, or risk a $300 ticket.

“It’s been a voluntary thing for officers to check, but now it’s mandatory,” said Capt. Patrick Burke, who oversees traffic enforcement for the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department.

The D.C. Council passed a compulsory liability insurance law in 1982, but according to the Insurance Research Council, about 21 percent of drivers who hold D.C. licenses are uninsured. That compares to a national average of 14 percent.

“A first offense carries a civil fine of not less than $300 or more than $500, ” Burke said. The policy change is aimed at getting the uninsured to change their ways. That, in turn, would reduce the burden law-abiding motorists endure for losses caused by uninsured drivers.

The effort is the latest in a series of initiatives aimed at improving road safety and cracking down on scofflaws. Others have included ticketing motorists with outdated temporary plates or licenses.

Burke suggested drivers with multiple vehicles make sure they have copies of insurance cards for each in their wallet or purse.

The D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles will follow up on the tickets issued by sending the motorists an insurance verification notice. Violators will be expected to submit documentation as proof the policies remain in force.

“We’re seeing too many people who get their cars insured and after making the first few payments, let their insurance lapse,” Burke said.

The stepped up enforcement follows a 30 day warning period that ended Friday. Several insurance companies have e-mailed customers in the D.C. metropolitan area informing them of the change in police policy. About 60 percent of the vehicles driven in the district each day are registered in other jurisdictions.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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