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Traffic stops go digital with e-insurance cards

October 11, 2015

Jess Rollins, USA TODAY

Story Highlights

State legislatures nationwide are hoping a tweak in statutes will save drivers from tickets or at least spare them from digging through their glove boxes, wallets or pocketbooks for their insurance cards.

Governments in more than a dozen states have recently passed laws that authorize drivers to show digital images of their proof-of-insurance cards to law enforcement officers during traffic stops.

  • Governments in more than a dozen states have OK'd digital images
  • Many bills require that the digital card be issued directly from an insurer
  • Some laws say police can't be held liable if they accidentally drop a smartphone

On Tuesday, a bill in Washington state became law. That followed laws passing in Colorado, Indiana, and Kansas in April, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, an industry trade group. Bills are awaiting signatures from the governors in Maine, Georgia, Alaska and Tennessee, according to that group.

At least another six states have approved the measure in at least one legislative body, including Florida, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, and Texas.

"It's a great convenience to the citizen," said Republican Sen. Gary Romine, of Farmington, Mo., who sponsored the bill that has passed the state Senate. "It's another opportunity to step into the information age."

Romine's bill now goes to the Missouri House.

Many so-called e-Card bills require that the digital card be issued directly from an insurer. Photos of paper cards are not acceptable to limit the risk of fraud.

"It can't be a cellphone photo of an insurance card," Romine said.

To address concerns of law enforcement, the bill says police cannot be held liable if they accidentally drop a person's smartphone while verifying vehicle insurance.

Louisiana began accepting digital insurance cards nearly a year ago.

"To my knowledge, there have not been any complaints from law enforcement," said Sgt. J.B. Slaton, a spokesman for the Louisiana State Police. "It seems to be working well."

Insurance companies, which can save on paper and postal costs, are among the strongest supporters of e-Card laws.

"It modernizes insurance laws and keeps up with consumer behavior," said Nicole Mahrt, of Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, which represents auto, home and commercial insurers.

Mahrt tallied at least two dozen states that have passed or are considering a bill.

"It's certainly a trend," Mahrt said.

Rollins also reports for the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader

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