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How Do the Police Know You Don’t Have Insurance?

  • Cars Explained
  • Natasha Young
  • 6 minutes

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As required in 49 states and the District of Columbia, uninsured drivers make up a considerable portion of the population. Many Americans believe that driving without car insurance is an option. Driving without insurance is punishable and the process of getting out of it could be catastrophic. And it’s still illegal even if you could slip away from cops. But the question is, can the police tell you don’t have insurance? Definitely, YES! Read to know more. 

Can the police tell if you have no insurance? 

They can, in fact. To begin with, there will be requests to pull over. Despite advances in technology, police are unlikely to conduct an insurance check unless they have a compelling reason to do so. That doesn’t mean, however, that you shouldn’t use it while driving! 

Can police see what type of insurance you have? 

Yes. Insurance databases are now available to the vast majority of police forces. It’s likely that if you’re asked to show proof of insurance, they’ll check to make sure your policy hasn’t already expired. A standard pullover won’t have the time or resources to run the numbers for a custom package. 

police car

Source: Unsplash

How do the police know you don’t have insurance? 

Automated License Plate Recognition Systems (ALPR) 

The use of ALPR cameras, allows police to quickly and easily identify drivers who do not have valid insurance. By “running” a vehicle’s license plate, police can determine whether or not the vehicle is properly insured.  

This saves time for police and drivers when they stop for “routine traffic stops”. ALPR is useful to catch fugitives, traffic ticket violators, speeders, and car thieves. In addition to finding uninsured motorists. ALPRs are mountable on police cars. But they are usually useful at high-traffic intersections and toll booths to catch more criminals. 

Crime record database 

If a person has previously been caught driving without insurance, the police in some states will pull them over again and check to see if they’ve actually purchased an insurance policy. If they don’t, their license will be suspended. 

No pay, no play law 

A “no pay, no play” law restricts the ability of an uninsured driver to file a claim against an insured driver in some states. In other words, don’t expect a large payout from the insurance company of someone who is legally driving if you are not insured and you get into an accident with them. 

Insurance company information 

All insurance companies registered in a state must share their database of policy numbers and license plate numbers, which is mandated by some states. So that states can match registered vehicles with policies, making it less likely that a driver will provide authorities with false or fraudulent insurance information. 

Traffic checkpoints 

A second way to catch uninsured drivers is to randomly place insurance checkpoints along major highways. Despite the fact that checkpoints are no longer as common as they once were, police still conduct them. A fine will be assessed if you fail to show proof of insurance at a checkpoint. Your car will almost certainly be towed if you don’t have any insurance. 

can the police tell you don't have insurance?

How do the police verify the insurance? 

Checking your insurance documentation is a low-tech process in most states. Your insurance card is requested, and the officer calls your insurance company to verify that you have a policy in place. The procedure is as follows: 

  •  A police officer will stop your vehicle. 
  • Police officers ask for proof of insurance at this point. 
  • You will be asked to present proof of insurance. 
  • A police officer checks your proof of insurance documentation, confirms the name and date, then returns it if all is well. 

Your insurance policy may be checked out by the officer if the officer has reason to believe you don’t have it or the document, you’re presenting is fraudulent. It is possible that in some states if you are pulled over by a police officer, they will be able to determine whether or not you have insurance simply by looking at your license plate. 

Do the police always call your insurer? 

Certainly, not all the time. Usually, a police officer will not call your insurance company to verify your information. The police officer will accept your documentation as proof of insurance if it shows that you have a policy from your insurer and that policy is active within the specified dates.  

However, if the officer has reason to suspect you of insurance fraud, he or she may contact your insurer to confirm the validity of your policy. In the event that you’ve falsified your credentials, you could face serious consequences. Occasionally, the cop will call your insurance company to double-check the information. The officer may believe you if you have proof that you have an active insurance policy. 


Police check insurance

What are the penalties for driving without insurance? 

In every state, it is a crime to drive without insurance. While states like Virginia and New Hampshire do not mandate auto insurance, they still require proof of some form of insurance, such as a surety bond. 

 First-time offenders who are caught driving without insurance face a monetary penalty. In most states, the first offense is punishable by a fine of $500 to $1,000, although some states impose fines of up to $5,000. DMV reinstatement fees may also cost you hundreds of dollars. 

In the future, you may have to pay more in insurance premiums. Insurers consider you a risky driver if you are caught driving without insurance. A high-risk driver may have to pay much more than a low-risk driver if he or she decides to purchase auto insurance. Driving without insurance is considered a higher risk because you have a history of doing so. 

Obviously, if you’re involved in an accident and don’t have insurance, you’ll have to foot the bill yourself. Uninsured drivers are still responsible for any medical expenses and vehicle damage they cause in an accident. Normally, these expenses would be covered by the policyholder’s auto insurance.  

These costs are yours to bear as an uninsured driver. After an at-fault accident, that could mean paying the other driver thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. Driving without insurance is certainly something you should avoid at all costs. 


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