New Louisiana Auto Insurance Laws Go into Effect Aug. 1

Two insurance-related regulations go into effect Wednesday in Louisiana, where authorities will begin accepting electronic forms of coverage proof and start enforcing harsher penalties on those without coverage.

Louisiana Electronic-Proof Measure Goes into Effect

HB 1130, now Act 824 of 2012, makes it so that electronic versions of a coverage card or policy document will be an acceptable form that motorists can use to prove they have insurance.

The bill enjoyed strong support as it moved through the state Legislature, garnering unanimous approval in the state House and Senate. Gov. Bobby Jindal gave final approval to the legislation on June 15.

“A photocopy of the [identification] card, or an image of the card that is displayed on a mobile electronic device, declaration page or policy issued by the insurer” are all acceptable ways to prove coverage under the new law.

The traditional paper ID cards are still acceptable forms of coverage proof, and motorists still have to produce that hard-copy card if compelled to do so by authorities.

The measure makes Louisiana the third state in the U.S. to legalize such electronic forms of proof, with Idaho and Arizona passing similar legislation earlier this year.

Harsher Enforcement Against Uninsured Drivers Kicks In

Also on Aug. 1, Louisiana authorities will be able to tow the vehicles of first-time offenders they find lack the required coverage to drive a car. HB 1053, now Act 512 of 2012, repealed looser enforcement regulations that had only allowed police to tow cars on second and subsequent offenses.

HB 1053 passed the state House debate with an 82-7 vote on April 25 and the state Senate by a 28-3 vote on May 24. Jindal finalized the proposal on June 15.

During the House debate and committee meetings with fellow lawmakers, Rep. Ray Garafalo (R-Meraux), the legislation’s sponsor, said his bill would “put the teeth back into the state’s compulsory coverage law.”

Garafalo also connected his bill to HB 1130, saying drivers who lack evidence of insurance during traffic stops now have little excuse, as electronic formats allow them several other avenues of displaying they have the proper policy to drive. Getting proof of auto insurance in electronic formats is possible with most major insurers, including State Farm, which distributes an individual smartphone application that displays coverage.

According to Louisiana State Police figures cited by Garafalo, more than 17,000 drivers were cited for failing to prove they had coverage during a traffic stop from July 2011 to March 2012, and about 96 percent of those drivers were ultimately found to lack coverage.

Under the new law, police can pass on towing a vehicle if its passengers are elderly, children or if the towing creates “imminent danger to the public.”

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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