Insurance coverage now law

Published 2:00am Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A statewide requirement that automobile owners carry minimum liability insurance isn’t anything new — but, beginning Jan. 1, 2013, the requirement will be more strictly enforced and carry expensive punishments for those who don’t comply.
Beginning with the new year, staff members in the Escambia County Tax Collector’s office will be required to verify proof of sustained insurance by anyone registering a vehicle for the first time or renewing a vehicle registration.
Rachel Wiggins, tax collector for the county, said the law isn’t a surprise for her office, but will require additional work for her staff.
“We have already begun to gather information we will be needing to make the registration process better for everyone,” Wiggins said. “It will required more work for us, but making sure that everyone has the minimum liability insurance required will be better for everyone.”
Wiggins said the new process will require anyone applying for a vehicle tag/registration will be required to show proof of insurance as well as drivers license information for all parties listed on the vehicle registration.
Wiggins also said that once information is entered into the statewide system, law enforcement officials will have access to the information to verify compliance with the law in the event a motorist is pulled over.
“Gathering this information has been a part of our job for some time but has been a bigger job than us – or any other county – could keep up with,” Wiggins said. “The state decided to take over the responsibility of maintaining the records on insurance verification. Now, our job will simply to be to take the information and enter it into the system. So, as of Jan. 1, if you don’t have proof of auto insurance, you don’t get a tag for your vehicle.”
According to information from the Alabama Department of Revenue’s Motor Vehicle Division, the law will be enforced by verification by law enforcement during traffic stops or accidents; verification by county license plate issuing officials prior to registration or renewal; verification by the Department of Revenue by sending requires to vehicle owners whose registrations have been suspended, who have been convicted of mandatory liability insurance violations or whose driving privileges have been suspended or revoked.
Penalties for violations will be costly with the first violation carrying a fine of up to $500 with subsequent violations fined by $1,000. With a second violation, drivers may also have their license suspended. Additionally, if a vehicle is registered or operated without insurance, the registration will be suspended and the owner will be subject to a $200 reinstatement fee for the first violation and a $400 reinstatement fee for second or subsequent violations as well as a mandatory four-month registration suspension.
Minimum liability coverage for all registered vehicles include no less than $25,000 for death and bodily injury to one person; $50,000 for death and bodily injury to two or more persons; and $25,000 for damage or destruction of property.
For details on the mandatory insurance requirements or for information on documents need to register or renew vehicles in Escambia County, contact the Escambia County Tax Collector’s office at 809-0302 or the Alabama Department of Public Safety Website at www.dps.alabama.gov.

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