Laws, Proposals Spread for Electronic Proof of Auto Insurance

Last year, five states greenlit laws that let drivers use documents displayed on electronic devices to prove they have the proper auto coverage required to be on the road.

And it’s still full-speed ahead for the promulgation of electronic insurance proof, with 15 states so far signing legislation into law this year. With more pieces of legislation in the pipeline toward full passage, this year will see most states in the U.S. authorizing drivers to use electronic proof of car insurance.

Termed “e-cards” by industry group Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI), the electronic variant of the traditional policy ID card is offered by major insurers like State Farm and Progressive and typically goes on a smartphone or other mobile device. In states where e-card legislation has been approved, electronic proof of coverage can be presented when required, like to officers during traffic stops, in lieu of the hard-copy cards that drivers have carried in the past.

In Feburary, PCI counted 21 states as “likely to consider” e-card legislation, which the industry organization said was a “common-sense switch that will save everybody time and effort.”

“Pretty much every motorist has been there at one time or another, digging around in the glove compartment box desperately trying to find your insurance card after being pulled over by the police,” Alex Hageli, PCI’s director of personal lines policies, said in a statement. “No longer will motorists be ticketed and have to take time off of work to go to court for driving without insurance just because they couldn’t find a current ID card in their car.”

E-Card Laws Passed This Year

The governors in the following states have signed e-card legislation into law this year:
–Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe signed SB 243 into Act 175 on March 1
–Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed HB 1159 into law on April 4. A state regulation had allowed drivers to electronically display their coverage during car registration, but the bill expanded that allowance to include
traffic stops.
–Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed HB 254 into law on May 6.
–Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed SB 620 into law on April 12.
–Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad signed SF 386 into law on May 15.
–Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed S 85 into law on April 4.
–Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear signed H 164 into law on March 22.
–Maine Gov. Paul LePage signed LD 133 into law on May 7.
–Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed SB 2593 into law on March 27.
–Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber signed H 2107 into law on May 14.
–Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed HB 478 into law on May 13.
–Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed SB 181 into law on May 24.
–Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed HB 295 into law on March 26.
–Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee signed SB 5095 into law on May 7.
–Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead signed SF 87 into law on March 13.

E-Card Proposals Currently in the Works

In addition, several pieces of legislation are nearing the end of the legislative processes:
–In Alaska, HB 146 was transmitted to Gov. Sean Parnell on May 23 with a decision due back on June 15.
–In Florida, HB 635 was passed in the state House by a 117-1 vote on April 25 and a 38-0 vote in the Senate on May 2. It was presented Tuesday to Gov. Rick Scott.
–In Illinois, SB 1775 was passed in the state Senate by a 54-0 vote on April 23 and House by a 113-0 vote on May 23. It is currently awaiting a decision from Gov. Pat Quinn.
–In Missouri, SB 317 was passed in the state Senate by a 31-0 vote on April 25. Most recently, it was assigned to a third reading in the state House on May 17.
–In Oklahoma, SB 860 was passed in the state Senate by a 45-0 vote on March 11 and the House by a 96-1 vote on April 18. Its legislative summary has not noted any action since it was returned to the Senate and signed on April 22.
–In Wisconsin, SB 62 was concurred into the Assembly on May 14 and was last seen in the Senate on May 16.

E-Card Proposals Passed Last Year

E-cards began their introduction into law last year, when governors in Arizona and Idaho signed legislation on the same day in March that marked the first time statewide proposals over electronic proof became law:
–In Arizona, Gov. Jan Brewer signed HB 2577 into law on March 27.
–In California, Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 1708 into law on Sept. 6.
–In Idaho, Gov. C.L. Otter signed SB 1319 into law on March 27.
–In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal signed HB 1130 into law on June 15.
–In Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton signed SF 1875 into law on April 18.
–In Alabama, regulations permitted electronic means of displaying evidence of coverage instead of legislation.

Different Laws Present Different Means of Enforcement
Since wording in separate pieces of e-card legislation differ between states, so does the enforcement of those laws.

For example, Wyoming’s SF 87 specifically requires an “identification card” that is only made available by the insurer through mobile applications like State Farm’s Pocket Agent.

On the other hand, Louisiana’s HB 1130 only requires that the identification card or “declarations of the insurance policy showing coverages” be “a photocopy, or an image displayed on a mobile device.” Motorists can interpret such wording as meaning that they can take a photo of their hard-copy policy documents or ID card and present that to an officer as valid proof.

According to PCI, the trade group supports any wording of e-card legislation as long as it does not require insurers to provide the e-card and “reserves the formatting choice to the policyholder.”

The spread of e-card legislation has also piqued privacy issues among legislators.

In Arizona, lawmakers questioned police access to the smartphone while verifying an electronically displayed policy. They ultimately spelled out how enforcement would play out, wording the law to say that a driver handing over their smartphone to prove coverage “is not consenting for law enforcement to access other contents of the wireless communication device.”

Privacy provisions in the Utah e-card bill exempted police from liability: “A peace officer is not subject to civil liability or criminal penalties under this section if the peace officer inadvertently views content other than the evidence of owners or operator’s security on the mobile electronic device.”

California lawmakers grappled with the same issue, saying state and federal laws gave police power that the e-card law could not supersede.

“Practically speaking, this might mean that any person who hands their cell phone over to a peace officer voluntarily risks disclosure of private information accidentally revealed, even though AB 1708 only narrowly authorizes peace officers to view evidence of financial responsibility,” the bill’s legislative analysis stated.

The California e-card law also established rules of liability, noting that whenever a driver gives their phone over to an officer, that driver “assumes all liability for any damage to the mobile electronic device.”

About Charles Nguyen
Charles Nguyen is an enterprising journalist who reported for Patch.com and the Desert Dispatch and was the editor in chief of the Guardian (the twice-weekly newspaper at the University of California, San Diego) before coming to Online Auto Insurance News.

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