Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law on Aug. 23 legislation allowing car insurance owners to go paperless by using a smartphone app to prove proof of insurance.
The new law makes Illinois the 14th state to allow motorists to exchange the traditional paper proof for a digital copy on their phone.
Aaron Woodruff, ISU chief of police, said the law does not require drivers to have the smartphone app or turn their phone over to a police officer if they do not feel comfortable.
“There is no requirement that there must be an electronic card, so there are no penalties unless they do not have some form of proof of insurance,” Woodruff said.
“Either electronic or paper form is acceptable to our officers with no preference. It depends on individual owners.”
The law states officers are not liable for any accidental damages to the phone. The law also states the police officer is not allowed to access any personal information from the phone while checking for proof of insurance, Sheriff Mike Emery said.
One drawback of the new law is if the police officer is back in the police car looking at the driver’s insurance and the phone locks up. A way to prevent this problem is for the police officer to stand by the pulled over vehicle as they check the insurance or bring the driver back to the police car.
As well, this new law could save drivers the risk of being issued a citation. In the past, if you did not have insurance with you in your car, which is an Illinois state law, you would be issued a traffic citation.
“What I normally did when I patrolled and insurance became law was rather than write the citation and file it in with the clerk the person could come in and show me they did have insurance,” Emery said. “If they didn’t, I would have to write the citation.”
Now, a driver can electronically prove they have insurance on their smartphone without a paper copy.
Some insurers have already begun to offer services. State Farm Insurance is promoting its Pocket Agent app which can be used on a variety of smartphones.
Woodruff was positive about the new law and believes it will lower the rates of citations during routine traffic stops.
“I think it is certainly a positive for drivers and vehicle owners,” Woodruff said. “The law provides a convenience factor and may reduce the amount of citations issued for not presenting valid proof of insurance.”
Also, pending in Illinois is Senate Bill 1776. This bill would amend the Illinois Vehicle Code. Senate Bill 1776 would direct the secretary of state to populate the registry with the identity of persons that have been convicted of violations of operating an uninsured motor vehicle.