Penalties for Driving Without Insurance in Georgia
When the economy is hurting and times are tight, many people look to cut expenses anywhere they can. If you live in Georgia and are thinking of dropping your auto insurance as a way to save a few bucks, you might want to think again. The fact is that uninsured motorists are an expensive proposition for both the state and their fellow drivers, one that is becoming less and less tolerated. Remember, you aren’t the only one struggling through a bad economy. So is your state government, and they are looking to collect revenues anywhere they can -- and that includes the penalties and fines you will likely incur if you are caught driving without insurance in Georgia.
Georgia State Law Requirements:
The general rule in Georgia is simple: all vehicle owners and lessees in the state are required to maintain continuous mandatory liability insurance on their vehicles in order to legally drive, as well as register, obtain, renew and replace their license plates. The operative word here is “continuously.” That means that any lapse in coverage can lead to significant penalties. And the Georgia DMV will know if your insurance has lapsed because insurers are required by law to electronically inform them of any terminations, additions or deletions to your policy.
Additionally, Georgia drivers must carry an insurer-issued policy information card with them at all times while driving. Failure to have your card with you when operating your vehicle can also result in penalties.
A Simple Lapse
What are the penalties for a simple lapse in coverage? Actually, they are pretty mild. As I mentioned, if your insurance is terminated or expired, your carrier will electronically notify the DMV. You have thirty days from the date of expiration to provide proof of new insurance. If proof is received within that thirty days, and there was no lapse in coverage, you are good to go. (A “lapse,” by the way, is defined as ten or more days of no insurance coverage.) If proof of insurance is received within the thirty days, but there has been a lapse in coverage, you must pay a $25 lapse fee.
Pretty simple. So far.
If your insurance expires and you do not provide proof of insurance within the thirty-day period, the DMV will send you a “Notice of Pending Suspension”. If proof of insurance is not provided during this second thirty-day period, your vehicle’s registration will be suspended. (Remember, it is a misdemeanor to drive with a suspended registration. More on that in a minute.) In order to get the suspension lifted at this point, you will have to provide proof of insurance, pay the $25 lapse fee and an additional $60 reinstatement fee.
Still pretty mild, right? But keep in mind, all of this has to do with a simple lapse in coverage. What happens if you get caught actually driving without insurance?
Driving Without Insurance? Not so Simple -- or so Cheap.
If you’re thinking about playing the system and driving without insurance in Georgia, forget about it. I can’t say it enough: if you try to game the system, you will get caught. The state government has many smart people hard at work whose sole job responsibility is to catch people doing the very thing you are thinking of doing. So really: just don’t even think about it.
First and foremost, if you are caught driving without current valid insurance in Georgia, you will be charged with a misdemeanor and it will remain on your record permanently. That means that every potential employer and maybe even overzealous potential date will be able to run a background check on you and discover that you tried to play fast and loose with the insurance system -- not a good look for anyone. Additionally, you will have to appear in court and pay a fine in the amount of $200 to $1,000, so you basically risk paying up to a month’s rent.
To top it off, your license will be suspended for 60 to 90 days. That means no driving, at all. It is also possible, though unlikely, that you will receive jail time of up to 12 months. While jail time is usually reserved for repeat offenders who will also face steeper fines and longer suspensions, you run the risk any time you get behind the wheel in Georgia without car insurance. Now, add in the expense of hiring an attorney, and then ask yourself if canceling your insurance is really a cost-saver.
The Biggest Penalty of All.
I’ve given you a short introduction to the penalties you can expect from the state if you drive in Georgia without the required insurance coverage. But these penalties could be the least of your problems. If you are in an accident for which you are liable, and you don’t have insurance, you may be looking at a civil action leading to damages that could cost you the assets you have spent a lifetime accumulating, including your home and any savings you have squirreled away -- and then some.
To sum up, times are definitely tight and you need to save money wherever you can. But canceling your auto insurance is definitely not the way to do it.