SR22 insurance (also known as FR-44 in Virginia and Florida), while not technically an insurance policy, is a document proving that you have adequate coverage. Your insurance provider issues an SR22 along with the insurance policy after being convicted of a serious traffic violation. It’s the only way you can keep driving with a criminal record.
As the document holder, you’ll be responsible for preventing anything untoward from happening during the period. Meanwhile, your insurance provider will be responsible for informing the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) that you’re under SR22 and if it’s about to lapse. Committing any violation or allowing the SR22 to expire will result in getting your driving privileges revoked.
If you found yourself charged with the following traffic violations, contact your insurance provider to arrange your SR22 as soon as possible.
1. Driving Under the Influence/While Intoxicated (DUI/DWI)
Though the public uses these two terms interchangeably, DUI and DWI are two different offenses from a legal standpoint. Driving under the influence can either mean alcohol or drugs, whether prescription or illegal. Driving while intoxicated (or impaired) usually involves alcohol alone, but some states have also included drugs or sleepiness. The fine line has all but disappeared in recent years.
Nevertheless, both offenses warrant an SR22 because of their gravity. A first-time DUI/DWI is a misdemeanor; in some states, a second-time DUI/DWI is also a misdemeanor. Subsequent offenses become a felony. If the DUI/DWI caused severe injury or death, it’s a felony no matter how many times committed. Some states can charge an intoxicated passenger, even if they’re not on the wheel.
2. Reckless Driving
While conditions vary by state,
is usually driving with willful disregard for people or property. Many offenses qualify as reckless driving, ranging from illegally passing a school bus to speeding. A reckless driving conviction carries lesser penalties than a DUI/DWI, which is why it isn’t unusual for people to plead to bring a DUI/DWI conviction down a peg.
Like DUI/DWI, however, reckless driving still warrants an SR22 because of its gravity. Typically a misdemeanor, reckless driving can be considered a felony depending on aggravating factors such as casualties or fleeing from the scene.
3. Distracted Driving
Unlike DUI/DWI and reckless driving, distracted driving as an offense varies wildly by state. Here are some quick facts about the state laws from the Governors Highway Safety Association based on its January 2021 Distracted Driving Laws by State chart:
- Handheld gadgetry bans are present in 24 states plus Washington, D.C.
- Cellphone bans for school bus drivers are present in 20 states plus Washington, D.C.
- Cellphone bans for novice drivers are present in 38 states plus Washington, D.C.
- Text messaging bans for all drivers are present in 46 states plus Washington, D.C.
- Missouri’s only statewide distracted driving law is a text messaging ban on novice drivers.
- Montana has no statewide distracted driving laws as of this writing.
The use of electronic gadgets while on the wheel isn’t the only cause of distracted driving. A driver distracted by their immediate environment (i.e., looking away from the road, creaking on your car) can also qualify. Visit this page to know more about distracted driving.
Although it can result in imprisonment in some states, distracted driving usually results in a hefty fine. However, authorities still require people with such violations to get an SR22 because they pose a substantial risk to others.
4. At-Fault Accidents
As long as you carry personal injury protection (PIP) or no-fault coverage, you won’t be held liable for accidents. However, only 23 states are considered no-fault states—17 states require PIP while five states and Washington, D.C. deem it optional. An accident that occurs in any of the remaining 27 at-fault states will demand accountability.
Settling at-fault accidents involves knowing who’s more at fault. There are three ways to do this, again depending on the state:
- Comparative Negligence – Both parties can recoup expenses from each other depending on how much each is liable for the accident. For example, if one party is 55% responsible, that party’s insurance provider must pay 55% of the accident’s cost.
- Modified Comparative Negligence – One party can’t recoup expenses from the other if the former is more than 50% responsible for the accident. Most at-fault states employ this form of at-fault settlement.
- Contributory/Pure Negligence – One party can’t recoup expenses from the other party if it bears a degree of responsibility, no matter how much. In this case, the only way to do so is to be completely innocent in the accident.
Regardless of the at-fault settlement, an SR22 is needed if you’re partly or mostly responsible for the accident. Similar to distracted driving, authorities will see you as a considerable risk to others on the road. Even accidents in no-fault states require an SR22.
Only five states currently don’t require an SR22: Delaware, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.
5. Driving Without Insurance
Nearly all states plus Washington, D.C. require car owners to get insurance. Even New Hampshire and Virginia—the two states not making car insurance mandatory—demand that car owners have the financial capability to compensate people they injure or properties they damage. In getting SR22, you’re also proving your financial responsibility through your ability to maintain your insurance policy.
The minimum coverage varies for each state, ranging from USD$10,000 to USD$250,000, but has three primary terms of coverage: bodily injury per person, bodily injury per accident, and property damage per accident. Other terms of coverage include PIP uninsured/underinsured coverage, and medical and funeral expenses.
6. Repeat Traffic Violations
Regardless of the severity of the violation, committing them too often at a given time will demand an SR22. Authorities keep track of the tickets drivers accrue over a period, so they can determine who has more risk on the road. How many is too many is for them to decide, so there’s no number set in stone. The best way to avoid this is to follow traffic laws always.
Many Americans still need their cars even if they have their licenses revoked. It’s the only way for them to get to work or run errands. SR22 insurance makes sure that their driving privileges remain with them no matter the violation, provided they avoid causing trouble again.