News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 13, 2013

Insurance proof goes high tech

Law allows drivers to use smartphones to show insurance cards

Dianne Frances D. Powell
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Proof of insurance will soon be just a few taps away.

 Effective July 1, a new state law will allow Indiana drivers to show proof of insurance to police electronically in a trend that signals increasing use of technology in insurance laws.

 This year, 16 other states passed a similar law bringing the total number of states that have electronic proof of coverage in their law books to 24, according to the Property Casualty Insurance Association of America.

 The Senate Enrolled Act No. 620 states that drivers can show proof of financial responsibility to law enforcement officers in either a paper or electronic format. Electronic formats, according to the law, include the “display of an electronic image on a telecommunications device.”

 For instance, drivers will be able to show a digital image of their insurance card from a smartphone by accessing it through their car insurance provider app.

 However, it is uncertain whether all smartphones and insurance companies are now providing this service to consumers.

 In some instances, Internet connection may be required for access.

Vigo County Chief Deputy Clark Cottom said Tuesday that officers attend trainings twice a year to discuss statute changes like this one. The earliest on-shift training is slated for this month.

 Cottom said he sees this change as a benefit to both motorists and police.

 He also said other aspects of their work are already done with the help of technology, such as the ability to scan a driver’s license inside police cars, so accessing proof of insurance and other documents electronically is “obviously a wave of the future.”

Officers often find that motorists are not aware that their insurance cards have expired and this change may “give motorists a better opportunity to follow their expiration dates,” Cottom said.

It may even help drivers avoid a ticket. Drivers can access a copy of their proof of insurance from phones if they forget to put a paper copy in the car.

 “I think it is giving you more options. You don’t have to have that piece of paper in your glove box,” said PCI public affairs director Nicole Mahrt Ganley.

 But Ganley said the change is certainly not a mandate. Paper copies are still an option for drivers. Electronic proof just provides “flexibility” to insurance consumers.

 What’s important is having insurance. Cottom reminds “citizens that they are required to hold proof of financial responsibility” not just in the event of a traffic citation but also at other times such as during accidents and license plates renewals.

 Tribune-Star reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or dianne.powell@tribstar.com.