Drivers still need insurance card

By Ed Brock

Antoine Craig of Ellenwood knows he needs to have his car insurance paperwork with him.

"When I get pulled over they still ask me if I have proof of insurance because I'm not in the system," 22-year-old Craig said.

The system to which Craig is referring is the Georgia Electronic Insurance Compliance System. Insurance companies are required to provide information on the drivers that they insure to the Georgia Department of Motor Vehicle Safety for inclusion in the GEICS database. The database allows law enforcement personnel can verify the driver's insurance with a few keystrokes on a laptop computer.

Following the GEICS inception it was widely reported that drivers no longer needed to carry cards showing proof-of-insurance, Georgia Department of Motor Vehicle Safety spokeswoman Susan Sports said. But for several reasons people should continue to carry the cards, and in fact the law has been rewritten to require the cards again, said Sports.

In cases in which police stop a driver for speeding or a license plate check all they need is the verification from GEICS, said Clayton County police Capt. Tom Israel, head of the department's traffic enforcement division.

"If it's an accident we can issue a citation based on them not having an insurance card," Israel said.

That's because the GEICS doesn't provide information like policy numbers, Clayton County Solicitor General Keith Martin said, and drivers involved in accidents must provide that information to the other driver with whom they had the accident.

"The law doesn't require you to have the proof, but it does require you to have the information," Martin said.

Sports said the card is necessary for other reasons, such as when the driver goes out of state where the GEICS is not available.

"And something people don't think about is if you have a teenager and you take them to get their driver's license test you'll need proof of insurance," Sports said. "The examiners are not connected to the data base."

Martin said he has seen some cases brought to Clayton County State Court in which drivers were not able to provide the necessary insurance information after an accident. Israel said it's rare that drivers do not have the cards with them.

"People who have major insurance companies for coverage still normally have all their cards," Israel said.

The GEICS system was initially implemented in January 2003 but the implementation was then set back because some drivers were being left out of the system accidentally and to fix other problems, Sports said. It went back in service more than two months ago and since that time the problems with omitted drivers has not recurred.

In April some drivers will experience another aspect of the GEICS. Anyone who has allowed their insurance to lapse for more than 24 hours will receive a letter from the DMVS fining them $25, Sports said.

"You cannot stop your coverage for any reason," Sports said.

The fee will not apply if the supposed lapse is only a data transmission problem, provided the driver's insurance company transmits the corrected information. Lapses in insurance due to late payments and expected grace periods will be subject to the fee.

If the fee is not paid within 30 days of receiving the letter the vehicle's registration will be suspended, the owner will not be allowed to drive the vehicle and will have to pay $60 to have the registration reinstated.