Calif. Joins List of States Allowing Electronic Insurance Proof

California joined a growing list of states legitimizing electronic proof of insurance coverage with approval last week from Gov. Jerry Brown, who is still mulling another piece of car-related legislation that would inflate fines for texting behind the wheel.

Brown signed off on AB 1708 Friday, making California the 7th state in the U.S. with regulations on the books permitting drivers to prove they have the proper coverage to drive through their smartphones. Those laws typically allow displaying electronically scanned versions of a policy or policy documents, although many insurers already offer mobile formats of a policy that can be directly uploaded on smartphones once policyholders buy coverage.

In cheering the recent development, insurers said it eases life for motorists who purchase California auto insurance and applauded the state for its reputation “as ground zero for innovation and development of high tech products.”

“Gov. Brown just brought proof of coverage into the 21st century,” Armand Feliciano, vice president at the Association of California Insurance Companies (ACIC), said in a statement. “Now policyholders can use their technology to show they carry auto insurance and avoid unnecessary fix-it tickets and a time-consuming trip to the courthouse.”

Governors in Idaho and Arizona approved their states’ respective electronic proof laws in March. Minnesota followed the next month, and Louisiana finalized its law in June.

Colorado’s regulations allow electronic proof of insurance coverage during the vehicle registration process. Alabama regulations allow the same during both registration and traffic stops.

Such laws have commonly drawn strong support from lawmakers. In California, members of the state Assembly gave AB 1708 a 78-1 vote while state senators unanimously backed it with a 36-0 vote.

Brown Mulls Stiffening Texting Penalties

Meanwhile, the governor is considering a more contentious piece of legislation, SB 1310 from Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), which seeks to hike fines and penalties for texting while driving. The proposal would raise the base fine from $20 to $30 for first-time offenders and from $50 to $60 for repeat offenders. In addition, a point is charged to a driver’s record with the second and subsequent violations.

County and court fees make the actual cost of each texting ticket much higher, while driving records marred with multiple points can lead to the loss of insurance discounts and consequently higher coverage costs.

Legislators in the state Assembly and Senate passed the legislation by votes of 24-10 and 50-24, respectively.

Last year, state legislators lent the same support to SB 28, also sponsored by Simitian, who at the time wanted steeper inflation of fines. Lawmakers passed and sent that proposal to Gov. Brown, who vetoed it.

In his veto message, Brown stated that “for people of ordinary means, current fines and penalty assessments should be sufficient deterrent.”

After SB 1310 was passed in the state Legislature, Simitian said in a statement that he hoped for Brown’s approval after being “in discussions” with the governor’s office “to find common ground” over the latest proposal.

The governor has until Sept. 30 to approve or veto SB 1310, according to a staffer at Simitian’s office at the state Capitol.

About Charles Nguyen
Charles Nguyen is an enterprising journalist who reported for 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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