Every driver who operates a vehicle on the roads in Pennsylvania are required to have car insurance. Unfortunately, not every driver abides by this rule and runs the risk of serious financial penalties if caught. The state of Pennsylvania requires each driver to purchase a minimum of $5,000 for medical benefits, $15,000 for bodily injury (per person), $30,000 bodily injury per accident and $5,000 for property damage. These medical benefits and liability insurance coverages required by each driver are designed to cover the driver and any passenger in their car or the other car in the event of an accident. Without this minimum insurance, if a driver were to get in a car accident, they would have to pay out of pocket for any damages.
How Uninsured Drivers are Identified
There are four different ways a driver driving without insurance is identified:
- If a police officer pulls the driver over for a traffic violation and requests an insurance card but the driver is found without one.
- The insurance company is required to notify the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) when a driver’s insurance policy is cancelled. The PennDOT will then reach out to the driver and the driver must prove an alternate insurance policy for the vehicle and if the driver was found driving without insurance, their vehicle registration is suspended for three months.
- Before undergoing a vehicle inspection, the inspection employee will require proof of vehicle insurance. If not provided, the inspection employee will deny the driver the inspection certificate and can notify the PennDOT of an uninsured driver on the road.
- If your insurance company has not confirmed your vehicle coverage, your vehicle registration can be suspended.
One out of eight drivers in the United States is driving without insurance. If you are caught driving uninsured there will be a $300 fine for driving without insurance followed by a payment of $176 to restore the vehicle registration and reinstate your license. Your license will be suspended for three months and your vehicle may be impounded. The law in Pennsylvania does allow a civil penalty of $500 instead of suspending the driver’s vehicle registration.
Along with this $500 payment, you will also be required to pay an $88 fee to restore the vehicle registration to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and provide proof of current insurance. While this civil penalty allows family members to utilize the vehicle and maintain the same registration on the car, the driver who drove uninsured is still prohibited from driving that vehicle for their three-month suspension. This exception is only allowed to be used once a year, so if the same driver is caught driving uninsured five months later, paying the civil penalty is no longer an option.
If you are changing auto insurance and you are aware that there will be a lapse in coverage, you must immediately return your registration information during this time to prove you have not driven your uninsured vehicle. If you fail to pay an insurance bill, your insurance company will provide you with a 10-20 day notice before cancelling your policy. If you fail to pay after this reminder, you are now driving with no insurance and are responsible for paying out of pocked in you are involved in a collision.
If you have a lapse in car insurance, the rates tend to be higher than an uninterrupted coverage plan. On top of all of the expenses listed above, in Pennsylvania the average percentage increase in insurance skyrockets 16% which equates to about $225 per year extra when having a lapse in insurance plans.
Driving without insurance in Pennsylvania is dangerous and illegal. It’s important to stay up-to-date with your current insurance and pay all bills on time to avoid driving without insurance. Not only is it illegal, but being caught driving without insurance can have serious financial penalties both immediately and long-term.