Clanton PD: Have car insurance and carry proof of it

Published 8:08 pm Monday, May 23, 2011

Make sure you have at least mandatory liability insurance on your car and carry proof of it. That’s a message Clanton Police want to get out to drivers.

The department and the municipal court have a recurring problem of drivers having no insurance or no proof of insurance during traffic stops.

Current law requires that drivers have liability insurance and proof of insurance if requested by officers, Clanton Sgt. Neil Fetner said.

As extra motivation to make sure drivers have insurance and are carrying proof of it, drivers ticketed on insurance violations are now being required to pay court costs. This includes people without insurance but those who happen not to be carrying proof of it too.

“The judge became involved, and he changed this particular procedure,” said Fetner. “It just seemed like for a while nobody was complying with the law.”

Just the court costs for operating without insurance are $148.50. For those who don’t actually have any insurance, the ticket is another $300, bringing the total for being guilty of driving without insurance to $448.50.

Fetner said another recurring issue is drivers buying six months of coverage but then canceling the insurance after just a few days. In these scenarios, drivers still have cards showing they have insurance (when in fact they don’t) and pocket the refund.

Fetner said he’s aware of several accidents, including one in his own family, in which a driver provided an insurance card to officers following an accident when in fact the policy had been cancelled or terminated.

In these cases, asking for restitution in court is often the only recourse accident victims may have.

To address that problem, Fetner hopes Alabama moves soon to a system Georgia uses to make sure drivers have insurance.

In Georgia, insurance companies partner with the state’s Department of Revenue and the Crime Information Center to compile an electronic database that daily updates whether a specific vehicle is covered by insurance.

During a traffic stop, officers are able to check to find out whether drivers have insurance. Doing so would “prevent a lot of people from carrying around a card for five months that is no good,” Fetner said.

It would also keep people who do have insurance but can’t come up with proof at the time from being ticketed.

“I’d check on my computer, and (if the driver had insurance), the ticket wouldn’t be written,” Fetner said.