Question: My car insurance lapsed for 122 days. I had to turn in my plates, but I need to get to work. What can I do? I live in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Answer: Luckily you live in an area of the country that has decent public transportation available to you because it may be what you’re stuck using to get to your job if your workplace is too far to walk to.
The state of New York penalizes uninsured motorists in order to dissuade drivers from having a lapse in the mandated state car insurance coverage. The state easily finds out about lapses since car insurance companies must notify the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) electronically every time a motorist obtains or stops (though cancellation or a lapse) coverage.
The penalties aren’t as harsh for car owners who have a lapse of 90 days or less. The consequence is only a civil monetary fine for each day you were uninsured.
When the lapse of car insurance lapse is over 90 days, the penalty is more severe.
As you found out, you must turn in your vehicle’s license plates to the DMV, and your registration is suspended for the same number of days as you were without car insurance coverage and had not turned in your plates – so 122 days in your case.
You may also need to check and see if your driver’s license is suspended at this time since normally the New York DMV will also suspend a person’s license if the individual’s registration suspension period is more than 90 days.
All of this could have been avoided if you had either kept your car insurance coverage up-to-date or turned in your plates when you lost your coverage.
However bad this is, it could have been worse. If you are cited for driving without insurance, the traffic ticket fine can be as much as $1,500 and your car may be impounded.
Also, if you had crashed in your uninsured vehicle, the New York DMV would have revoked your license and registration for at least one year. And on top of other penalties, the DMV requires payment of a $750 civil penalty to get your license back after such a revocation.
How to get around
If your license isn’t suspended, then you may be able to borrow a car from friends or family members during your registration suspension. However, before borrowing a car, make certain you would be covered under the owner’s insurance policy if you were in an accident.
Don’t think about trying to let a friend “buy” your car so that person could register the vehicle and let you drive it as a way around your suspension. This is not allowed.
The New York DMV won’t issue a new registration for a vehicle if it believes the purpose is to avoid a suspension. This includes not allowing new registration if an applicant:
- Has the same last name as a registrant whose registration is suspended, or
- Resides at the same address as a registrant whose registration is suspended.
Even others trying to register your car would have to make a sworn statement certifying he or she is not registering the car to avoid the penalties from the current registration suspension.
If your license is suspended, or you’re unable to borrow anyone else’s car, then this leaves you with options of using mass transit, using taxicabs or getting a ride to and from work a with a co-worker or other driver.
Not being able to drive your car may seem harsh, but driving without insurance and possibly hitting someone and having no way to pay for the damages you caused is unacceptable.
When your suspension is over, be sure to shop around to find the cheapest car insurance rates. Your rates will be higher at first, due to your lapse in coverage, but should come down in time if from now on you keep continuous coverage on your car and prove to be a safe driver.