Starting Jan. 1, drivers who don’t keep insurance on their vehicles will see their registrations suspended after a few months.
Drivers who maintain insurance on their vehicles year-round likely won’t notice anything new. Insurance companies already report which vehicles have insurance to the Department of Motor Vehicles, which police can access and routinely check during traffic stops. What is new, though, is that the state will cross-check the vehicle identification numbers every month against its database of registered vehicles.
After two months of being uninsured, a vehicle’s owner will get a notice saying they have 30 days to get insurance. If the driver ignores this, their registration will be revoked, and it will cost $75 plus providing proof of insurance to reinstate it.
“It’s a real problem in Idaho,” said Rep. Rod Furniss, R-Rigby, who sponsored the bill this legislative session creating the verification system. “(The Idaho State Police) give a thousand tickets a month for uninsured drivers.”
Furniss is an insurance broker by profession, specializing in life and health insurance and employee benefits. People who receive a notice because their insurance has lapsed can go online or fax in a form proving they have insurance to avoid losing their registration. Furniss said the $75 fee to reinstate a revoked registration is still cheaper than the cost of getting stopped while driving and ticketed for driving without insurance.
“It’s not cheaper to go without insurance than get a ticket,” he said.
Furniss said he has gotten numerous questions about how the law affects people who only drive vehicles that are on the road seasonally. Those people, he said, can fill out and submit a non-use form when they take their vehicle off the road. People who take a vehicle off the road will get another notice after a year, at which point they can submit another non-use form if the vehicle is still off the road.
People who own vehicles that aren’t on the road, such as parts vehicles or ones they have been working on, won’t be affected by the new law, Furniss said, although under existing law such vehicles are supposed to be claimed as part of one’s property tax.
Furniss said he worked with the DMV to put the bill together and the DMV has already run some tests of the system to get ready for Jan. 1.
“We have a lot of uninsured vehicles on the road, and it’s been a real problem if you’ve ever been hit by an uninsured motorist,” Furniss said.
Idaho Falls police wrote 609 tickets in 2018 for failure to provide proof of insurance and 139 for failure to maintain insurance, said department spokeswoman Jessica Clements. However, Clements said, many of the people ticketed for failure to provide proof likely had insurance but just didn’t have the proof with them when they were stopped and the ticket would have been dismissed if they provided proof to the court. People ticketed for failure to maintain insurance, she said, were mostly people who got into accidents in which they were at fault. In those cases, Clements said, the other driver might have been forced to sue the uninsured driver for their costs.
The state moved some staffers into different positions to help administer the law but hasn’t hired any new employees as a result of it, said Vince Trimboli, spokesman for the Idaho Transportation Department. Trimboli said ITD expects about 150,000 vehicles to receive initial notices due to uninsurance after the law takes effect, representing about 8 percent of registered vehicles in Idaho.
“It’s a small amount but it’s an important amount,” he said.