Every driver in the state of California is required to prove financial responsibility to operate a vehicle. Most drivers purchase an auto insurance policy and carry proof of insurance in their car. This is in the event a police officer ever stops them or involved in an accident. Some drivers, however, must provide proof to the state that they are maintaining their financial responsibility to keep their driving privileges. Their policy must be kept current to prevent driver’s license suspension.
This form of coverage is known as SR22 insurance. There’s some misunderstanding with the requirements for SR22 insurance in the State of California. Many drivers wonder about the exact requirements associated with this coverage, such as how long they need to carry it or the minimum amount required by law.
What is California SR22 Insurance?
An SR22 is a rider to your auto insurance policy, indicating proof of financial responsibility. It is issued when required by the state, typically for those drivers who have been convicted of certain driving-related offenses. Your insurance carrier must submit this form to the state for you, and it must be kept current for the mandated period, which according to the Department of Motor Vehicles (www.dmv.ca.gov) is typically three years.
This particular type of insurance coverage must be obtained when a driver hopes to reinstate their license. An SR22 verifies that you’ve met all the requirements enforced by the State of California following a DMV suspension or license revocation. While they are most common with DUI-related driving offenses, an SR22 may also be required due to other driving circumstances.
What are Possible Reasons for Needing SR22 Insurance in California?
People who have been convicted of a vehicular-related crime are most often those that will be required to carry SR22 insurance. These crimes include, but are not limited to:
- Driving under the influence
- Reckless driving
- Driving without insurance or while under-insured
- Driving on a suspended license
- Accumulating excessive points on your driver’s license
SR22 insurance is also required in the State of California while driving with an ignition interlock device installed in the driver’s car.
Information About California Ignition Interlock Devices
Ignition Interlock Devices, or more commonly known as an IID is a DUI breath test device similar to a breathalyzer used by police. The instrument is installed in the dashboard of your car. The testing device disables your vehicle from operating unless you provide a breath sample that is free of alcohol. In 2012, all 50 U.S. states adopted laws permitting the imposition of IIDs as a sentencing alternative for drunk driving cases. The use of IIDs is now increasing in popularity throughout the state of California as an efficient DUI penalty.
If a driver is ordered by a judge to install an IID as part of their DUI probation, the driver must have the ignition interlock device installed by a professional. They must also have a device installed in each car they drive. Work vehicles owned by their employer are exempt from this rule, as well as motorcycles.
How Does an Ignition Interlock Device Work?
Before the driver can start a car with an IID installed, they must blow into the device and provide an alcohol-free breath sample. If the driver is unable to do that, the vehicle will fail to start.
While driving the IID will also require random samples. It typically occurs between 5 to 15 minutes after driving and around every 45 minutes after that. When asked for these samples, the driver will have just six minutes to provide ta sample. If they are unable to pass one of these rolling samples, the IID will not disable the car. It will instead register the test as a fail on your driving log which is then reported to the court.
In California, all IIDs are designed to make sure that only the convicted driver can provide the breath sample. This is ensured by the following,
- Requiring a specific breath pattern from the driver
- Each device has a short cord that will not reach the passenger or the back seat of the vehicle
- Requires a random sample while driving
- It is a crime to ask another person to provide their sample for you fraudulently.
- While it may be possible for an individual to find ways around those factors, the technology for IIDs in California is very advanced. These IIDs can detect and record if
- The driver disconnects or tampers with the device
- Any time the engine starts and stops
- It also records all test results
Another thing to keep in mind about ignition interlock devices in California is once they are installed, the driver must take it in for servicing once every 60 days.
How do I Obtain the Required Coverage?
If you receive a notification by the state that you must submit an SR22, you should first speak with your current insurance agent. Doing so allows you to see if your insurance company will issue the form. Not all insurance providers are willing to do so.
Even if your current insurer files the paperwork, it will most likely result in a significant increase in your insurance premiums. That’s because you are now classified as a high-risk driver. Because insurance companies rate the factors that determine your premiums differently, it is a good idea to get quotes from several different companies.
You will need to do this as quickly as possible, as you will have a deadline for getting this form to the DMV. If you are unable to obtain the required coverage from any company, your agent can help you apply to the California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan (CAARP).
What is the California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan?
Under California law, all drivers must carry car insurance. If you are unable to get high-risk insurance from your current coverage provider, you can still obtain SR22 insurance. The California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan or CAARP will match you with a company that will insure you if you cannot find SR22 coverage on your own. Drivers can learn more about CAARP by visiting their website or calling 1-800-622-0954 for more details.
How Long Do I Have to Maintain SR22 Coverage in California?
An SR22 policy must remain in force for at least three years after a driver receives a DUI license suspension or other qualifying violation. You don’t need to refile each year if your insurance company doesn’t decide to drop you after issuing an SR22. You also do not need to resubmit if you don’t cancel your policy during the three years. Your plan will stay on file with the California DMV until it is no longer necessary for you to maintain this type of coverage.
The amount of time a driver must maintain an SR22 policy in California depends on your driving conviction. In most cases, drivers convicted of a DUI will need to keep their SR22 policy for three years. However, there are some cases where you may need to keep an SR22 policy for as long as ten years or more. This is usually for drivers facing severe violations such as reckless driving. Even with the longer term, drivers should still maintain consistent, uninterrupted coverage the entire time.
What if I Fail to Obtain or Maintain my SR22 Coverage?
According to the California DMV, failure to either obtain or properly maintain SR22 insurance for the full three years will result in automatic suspension of your driver’s license. You will not be able to renew your license if it expires while suspended. If you are caught driving on a suspended license, you will be subject to immediate arrest and potential criminal charges.
If you drop or cancel your insurance policy, your car insurance company will need to report those details to the California DMV. If that occurs, you will need to get another SR22 policy from a different company. Doing so will help you to avoid another driver’s license suspension. It is essential for all drivers with an SR22 policy to maintain their coverage for the three years. Doing so will make having your license reinstated by the DMV once that period is over much easier for you.
An insurance provider may report anyone who fails to make a payment or has a lapse in their SR22 coverage. The company could inform the DMV that you no longer have coverage by filing an SR26 form. This is another instance where you could be faced with an additional driver’s license suspension if you do not refile your SR22.
What is an SR26 Form?
Also known as the Safety Responsibility-26, the SR26 is a form that is only filed by insurance companies who issue California SR22 policies. This document lets the DMV known that a driver’s SR22 policy is no longer valid. It essentially cancels out the SR22 filed as required by the court.
An insurance company will file an SR26 once the driver has served their full sentence and no longer need SR22 insurance. Alternatively, insurance companies will also submit an SR26 if the driver cancels their insurance, or if they fail to make a payment.
Understanding the Difference Between an SR1P and an SR22 in the State of California
Anyone who operates a motor vehicle with less than four wheels may need to file an SR1P form. That includes those who drive a moped or motorcycle, for example. Instead of filing an SR22 and showing proof of liability insurance in California, they will use this alternative form. An SR19 is often required if a driver has had their license suspended after driving without insurance or if they were convicted of potentially unsafe driving behavior.
Do I Need SR22 Insurance in CA if I Don’t Own a Vehicle?
Even if you don’t own a motor vehicle, you will still need to maintain liability insurance and file an SR22 form. This is true if you are convicted of a DUI while driving someone else’s car and have your license suspended. The only alternative to this is giving up all rights to drive. Even then, if you choose to drive later on in the future, you will still need to file an SR22.
Drivers who need to file an SR22 form and do not own a vehicle will need to take out a nonowner’s SR22 insurance policy. Doing this provides them with the state-required amount of liability insurance, which is tied to that driver no matter what vehicle they plan to use. A nonowner’s SR22 policy is not always available to drivers who consistently drive the same car, even if it belongs to another person. But it is available to those who occasionally drive another person’s automobile with the owner’s permission.
One good thing about nonowner’s SR22 insurance is that the quotes are usually more affordable than those for an owner’s policy. That’s because you only receive liability coverage since you drive less frequently than other drivers. Insurance rates are higher for drivers with DUI violations. A non-owners California SR22 insurance policy offers an easy way to reduce costs. But only if you don’t drive very often.
Can I Relocate With My Current Insurance
Yes, you can. Relocating to another state will not relieve you of the need to carry an SR22, or it’s equivalent. Your new state of residence may or may not require you to file. However, the State of California will require you to provide proof that you are carrying at least the minimum coverage required by law, which is:
- $15,000 bodily injury per person per incident
- $30,000 bodily injury for all injured
- $5,000 property damage per incident
The same is true if you move from another state into California while under an SR22 filing requirement. You may not need to file for a new SR22. But you will need to ensure you maintain the minimum insurance coverage required by your old state and that you are submitting the necessary paperwork with that state.
You must have a new SR22 policy in place in the state you are relocating to before you cancel your California SR22 policy. Failure to do so will be seen as a lapse in your insurance coverage, and that could result in a license suspension.
What Costs are Associated With SR22 Insurance in California?
As with any type of auto insurance coverage, the cost for SR22 insurance in California will vary from one insurance provider to the next. Most drivers in need of this high-risk coverage can expect to pay on average between $300 and $800 for their policy. The price depends on several factors similar to a standard car insurance policy such as driving history and age.
Along with that cost, SR22 policy owners will also lose any type of good driver discounts they have with their current policy. California law prohibits any DUI offenders from obtaining or maintaining a good driver discount within ten years of the date of their violation. After this period has passed, the DUI is removed from their driving record, and that person is eligible for safe driver discounts once again.
It is possible to have the conviction removed from your driving record earlier than ten years. However, if you choose to stay with the same insurance provider, the company knows all about the DUI charge and will continue to factor that in when determining your insurance rates. As long as there are no additional driving violations on your record, the impact that the DUI has on your insurance premiums should decrease over 5 to 10 years.
Along with paying the high-risk premium, some insurance providers will charge between $25 and $50 to file your SR22. Some drivers may also pay a reissue fee of $125 to the California DMV before they reinstate driving privileges.
Why Does Having an SR22 Policy Affect Insurance Rates?
Many people assume taking out an SR22 insurance policy is the reason for their high auto insurance rates. As well as the reason their rates continue to be high even after they serve their sentence. But in reality, the reason why their price is so much higher than other drivers is due to their driving violation, not the SR22 policy itself.
Some insurance providers may take the time to review the driver’s records and lower their rates after accordingly after they have completed their SR22 term. But that is not always the case with every company. Therefore, it may be in your best interest to shop around if your auto insurance rates are exceedingly high after serving your three-year term.
Being classified as a high-risk driver carries significant financial penalties, including a sharp decline in credit, and failure to comply with those rules can result in the loss of driving privileges and even incarceration.
It is vital that you obtain an SR22 as soon as possible after receiving notification and that you continue to maintain your policy throughout the required period. Once that requirement has expired, you will be able to return to standard insurance coverage at much lower premiums.