TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet on Tuesday approved a measure – backed by a St. Petersburg lawmaker – allowing drivers to show proof of motor-vehicle insurance through cell phones, tablets and other electronic devices.
The idea is that drivers can use their personal devices to download an application that lets them display an “e-copy” of their insurance card when pulled over by police. Julie Jones, secretary of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, said the new policy should be in force by January. Motorists were ticketed 326,168 times last year for driving without proof of insurance, according to Florida Uniform Traffic Citation Statistics. But of those, 250,651 were dismissed, nearly 77 percent, usually when drivers later proved they had coverage. Jones credited Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, with advancing the concept in the last legislative session.
Brandes is a technology advocate; he’s sponsored legislation to allow driverless cars, for instance. “Many of us have had that experience of fumbling around in a glove box trying to find our information,” he said. “Now it’s at the tip of our fingers on our mobile devices. This is an innovative measure that will be great for our state.”The “e-copy” idea was passed by lawmakers this year, signed by Scott and is now in state law. On Tuesday, Scott and Cabinet members voted to allow the highway department to change an administrative rule that requires motorists to carry a printed identification card.“I think this is going to work just fine,” Jones said. The law already addresses concerns of what happens if a state trooper or other officer drops and damages a device, she said. It’s on you, the driver.
“The person who presents the device to the officer assumes liability for any resulting damage,” the law says. As to privacy concerns, it also says giving your device to a law enforcement officer “does not constitute consent for the officer to access any information on the device other than the displayed proof of insurance.”Karen Morgan, a Florida spokeswoman for AAA, says her organization supports the idea. As of last month, 29 states had laws on the books allowing motorists to electronically show proof of insurance coverage, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.
BY JAMES L. ROSICA
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