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. The state government needs to collect revenue and keep drivers safe, and it does that through the penalties and fines you'll likely incur if you're caught driving without insurance in Georgia.
If you plan on driving a car on a public road in Georgia, you need to have car insurance. It's just not worth the risk to yourself, other drivers, or your wallet to do otherwise.
Georgia State Law Requirements
Different states have different car insurance requirements. If you own or lease a vehicle, you're required to have auto insurance in Georgia. Unlike some states, there is a strict requirement for you to maintain your coverage at all times.
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 to legally drive, register their vehicles, and obtain, renew, and replace their license plates. The important word here is “continuously.” That means that any lapse in coverage can lead to severe penalties. If you're wondering how long you can go without car insurance in Georgia, the answer is that you can't.
The Georgia DMV will know if your insurance has lapsed because insurers are required by law to electronically inform the DMV 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, so it’s a good idea to keep your insurance card on you at all times.
A Simple Car Insurance Lapse
What are the penalties for a simple lapse in coverage? They're relatively mild. If your insurance is terminated or expired, your carrier will electronically notify the DMV. You will have 30 days from the date of expiration to provide proof of new insurance. If proof is received within that 30 days, and there was no lapse in coverage, you're good to go. A lapse is defined as 10 or more days of no insurance coverage. If proof of insurance is received within the 30 days, but there has been a lapse in coverage, you must pay a $25 lapse fee.
Be careful, though. If your insurance expires and you don't provide proof of insurance within the 30 days, the DMV will send you a notice of pending suspension. If proof of insurance isn't provided during this second 30-day period, your vehicle’s registration will be suspended. Remember, it's a misdemeanor to drive with a suspended registration.
To get the suspension lifted at that point, you'll have to provide proof of insurance, pay the $25 lapse fee and an additional $60 reinstatement fee.
Driving Without Insurance in Georgia
First and foremost, if you're caught driving without current valid insurance in Georgia, you will be charged with a misdemeanor, and it will remain on your record permanently. Additionally, you will have to appear in court and pay a fine of $200 to $1,000. To top it off, your license will be suspended for 60 to 90 days.
That means no driving at all. It's 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.
In addition to fines and fees, you may also face legal costs and the costs for alternative transportation if you drive without insurance. The best route is to keep continuous auto insurance coverage, if at all possible.
The Biggest Penalty of All
Although the penalties for driving without insurance are serious, the consequences could be severe if you're in an accident. If you're in an accident for which you are liable and you don’t have insurance, you may be looking at a civil action. This could lead to damages that could cost you the assets you have spent a lifetime accumulating, including your home and savings.