For your car, that is?
I guess beginning October 1 the Department of Motor Vehicles has been contacting car owners in the state threatening to suspend their vehicle registrations unless they have insurance. It appears some people are buying an auto policy simply to register their vehicle, then cancelling after the vehicle is registered.
Not going to argue the libertarian case for or against mandatory auto insurance coverage here, but I can't help wonder if this will be a boon or bust for local police departments? Here, in Eureka, I was under the impression they went on an insurance enforcement campaign some years ago. I got caught up in it.
The way it is now, the insurance companies notify the DMV who does and doesn't have auto insurance policies. When you send in your vehicle registration fees, they cross check their records to make sure you have current insurance.
The way it used to be, not too long ago, was you had to include proof of insurance when you sent in the registration application for your car. For me, that usually meant just attaching the little wallet sized card the insurance company provided and sending it in along with the registration papers.
One year it didn't work for some reason. I ended up receiving a ticket in the mail for not having current registration on the wife's vehicle. This surprised me at the time, as I was pretty sure I'd sent the registration in. I was also pretty sure I'd sent proof of insurance in.
So, I went out and looked at the wife's rear license plate and, sure enough, it didn't have a current validation sticker. Hmmm...I know I sent in the registration, thinks I.
I asked the wife to find her registration and she can't find a current one. I couldn't specifically remember getting one in the mail so down I go to the DMV. They tell me that, while I paid the registration fee, I hadn't provided proof of insurance.
I believe they also told me I still had to deal with the ticket in traffic court, which I was too confused about the registration to be upset about the court thing at the time.
About that time I'd mentioned the situation to a sister- in- law and she said, "Did you staple the insurance card to the registration form? Those envelopes are mechanically opened and if the card isn't attached, and falls out, it gets lost...".
Yep, that's what I did. I just slipped the card into the envelope without securing it to anything. But couldn't they at least send me something telling me they didn't receive proof of insurance? I guess not.
I was wondering about this from the time I got the ticket in the mail. The wife's car parks eight feet or less in front of my truck. For someone to see it didn't have a valid sticker on it, they'd have to be driving by real slow looking specifically for it, and I actually remember seeing the cop drive away that morning.
I went out on the front porch for a smoke about 8am and saw a cop pull away from in front of the wife's car. I wondered what they were there for. Perhaps a problem with the neighbors? When I got the ticket in the mail about a week later I made the connection.
So, I get a printout of my insurance from my insurance babe, Janet Holmes of State Farm, and took it to the DMV. Problem solved on that end. Now I had to deal with traffic court.
I call down to the courthouse and explain the situation. The lady says I still have to go to court and it would be a fine of $110. I reiterate that I had insurance at the time in question, just didn't have the sticker on my car. She says it doesn't matter: "The Judge is very serious about this sort of thing".
One thing leads to another and I call the Court Clerk again. This time I get another lady and she says if I have proof of insurance at the time in question it's just a $10 fine and I could just come in and pay it without going to court.
I go down to pay the $10 fine. The lady in the window sounds like the first one I talked to on the phone. It probably was the same one as she tells me the fine is $110 and that's it. Pay it, or I can go to court and argue it with the judge.
I tell her to set me up for a court date as I'm not going to roll over on this like everyone else probably does. She goes ahead and sets me up for a court date.
The latent conspiratorialist in me comes out. Hmmm...cop sneaks around town looking for people that might have forgotten to put the sticker on their car, or misapplied their registration, writes them a ticket, then most of them pay a $110 fine. Sounds like a scam to me. I'm convinced I've been had by The Great Conspiracy.
So court day comes. I'm full of piss and vinegar, albeit tempered by age. I'm sure going to tell the judge. This is a bunch of crap.
We start forty five minutes late. I spend close to two hours before my time comes up. Finally my name gets called. Actually, it was the wife's name because it was her ticket.
I stand up and the judge asks me if I have proof of insurance. I say, "Yes, your honor..". I start to say more but the minute I stood up I got that old agorophobic nervousness and could hardly speak, although I tried.
The bailiff sympathetically says, "Calm down, calm down..." and motions for me to relax. The bailiff takes my registration papers to the judge. The judge looks at the papers and says, "Very well. Ten dollar fine....".
Out I went with my tail between my legs, The Conspiracy forgotten, just glad to have gotten off with only the $10 fine. Still, I can't help wonder how many people fall for the one court clerk lady's line and just paid the $110?
I also can't help but wonder how much more often people will be dragged into these sorts of hassles now that the DMV is comparing insurance vs. registration records more often. Maybe more, maybe less?
As an aside, I was ranting at everyone I bumped into about this when it was happening. A customer drove up to my house at the time and I related this scam to her. Her response: "I forget to put those stickers on all the time myself, but good to see they found a new way to make some money.".