Do I Need SR22 in California?
Ordering one last round of drinks on a special night out, speeding up a little to get home in time for dinner, or impressing your friends by swerving all over the road may seem tempting in the moment; however, these actions could lead to severe repercussions, from losing your license to taking someone's life.
Being safe while driving is essential, but if something were to happen it's important to understand what steps to take next in order to ensure all the necessary health and safety requirements, and legal obligations, have been met.
If you've lost your driving privileges in California, for example, you may be required to apply for an SR22. While some states don't require SR 22 insurance, California does, and therefore, it is necessary to adhere to the correct policies and obligations in order to eventually get back behind the wheel. SR22 can also go hand in hand with other obligations, depending on the severity of the violation. (1)
What is SR22?
An SR22 is a certificate of insurance submitted to the Department of Motor Vehicles by your auto insurer that confirms you have met California's liability requirements. Purchasing an SR22 policy allows for your license to be reinstated after suspension and is also necessary if you're required to drive with an ignition interlock device (usually after a DUI).
You may need to apply for an SR22 to get back behind the wheel if any of the following are true for you:
Had your license suspended after driving under the influence (DUI) or reckless driving
Acquired over 3 traffic violations
Caught with expired registration
Failed to report an accident resulting in substantial property damage and/or bodily harm
Had a car you owned without proper insurance cause an accident
Been declared as a negligent operator by the DMV.
By obtaining an SR22, at minimum, you will be able to cover approximately $15,000 of bodily injury liability (per person) and up to $30,000 per accident. (2) (3)
How do I complete an SR22 filing?
Contact your insurance company and allow them to assess your circumstances and eligibility. If your violation was severe, the final price may increase accordingly.
Your insurer will be in communications with the DMV to further evaluate the situation and what is required.
If you are unsuccessful in acquiring an SR22 from your car insurance company, you will be required to immediately seek it elsewhere in order to reinstate your driving privileges. (4)
How much does an SR22 cost?
The cost of SR22 insurance can be a shock to the system. It's often a lot more than regular car insurance, and it can vary depending on the driving offense you've committed. Additional costs such as liability coverage also play an important role in the final amount, as you may be considered a high-risk driver. If nothing else has deterred you from driving recklessly, the price of an SR22 might. The initial filling fee and reissuing of your license are also costs to remember.
However, there are ways to avoid paying too much. One of the best is to do extensive research first and compare company quotes. Each will evaluate your driving history as well as your personal circumstances, looking at factors like your age and location, and charge you accordingly. As a rule of thumb, you can expect to pay anything between $300 and almost $3000. (5) (6)
How long am I required to maintain my SR22 status?
After your initial suspension is complete, you must carry an SR22 status for at least three years. However, depending upon the severity of your infraction, you may be obligated to maintain your status for up to ten years. If your insurance company no longer covers you, you must find another auto insurer immediately and apply for another SR22. The DMV is to be notified of any of these changes. Your requirement may also be extended if you commit further offenses. Another important aspect to note is that an SR22 will usually remain on your record for up to three years, until cancelled by the DMV or insurance company. (3) (4) (5)
What happens if I move out of California?
If you leave the state, your SR22 status must travel with you. You're not allowed to simply act like it never happened, even if you're leaving the rest of your old life behind. If you stop paying what is required, your license will be revoked and you'll run into additional problems. If your policy lapses, you may also face additional charges and even prison time.
It can get tricky though, depending on where you move. Some states don't require individuals to file for an SR22. If so, you must still apply for the appropriate requirements in the state that would meet the standards of an SR22. If the state does require SR22s, you need to immediately acquire a new one, as your current one will no longer be valid. Informing the California DMV and your insurer of this change is also essential.
What is the difference between SR22 and non-owner SR22 insurance?
Non-owner SR22 insurance applies to individuals who don't own a car but still wish to reinstate their license in order to drive. If, for example, you borrow someone else's car rather than owning your own, this form of insurance will offer you liability coverage if you were to get into an accident. It is, however, important to note that non-owner SR22 is a secondary form of coverage. The insurance held by the actual car owner will come into play first before yours.
Non-owner SR22 will usually cover the following if you're responsible for an accident:
Personal injury protection coverage
Uninsured motorist liability insurance
Rental car liability coverage.
It is important to note that non-owner SR22 only covers you and not a family member, spouse or roommate. It also doesn't cover collision and comprehensive insurance, the loss/damage of personal property and/or a company car. (7) (8) (9)
Will I be required to do anything else?
Depending on why your license has been revoked, you may need to face additional obligations. As mentioned above, if you're found guilty of driving under the influence you may be required to install a mandatory ignition interlock device (IID) and to attend certain DUI classes. You are required to keep your IID attached for 5 to 12 months and if removed, your IID provider and relevant authorities will be notified. This attempt to get around your court-ordered obligations could also lead to further, harsher consequences. (10)
The IID works as follows:
User provides a breath sample by blowing into the mouthpiece
Ethanol-specific fuel cells detect the amount of alcohol present
Device measures the electrical current fueled by the alcohol
If below 0.02 blood alcohol concentration, the engine will start
If over, the engine will remain off
You are required to frequently blow into the mouthpiece to ensure your alcohol levels remain satisfactory whilst you drive. (11)
While IIDs may seem like a hassle to the user, it's suggested that they reduce the rate of repeated drunk driving offenses by 40-95%. This is, of course, paired with additional drunk-driving-recovery services including California DUI school. Depending on how many offenses you've committed, you may have to attend for up to 30 months and pay between $270 (12-hour class) and $3000 (30 months). Other potential requirements or consequences could include community service, vehicle impoundment, and informal or formal probation. (12) (13) (14)
How does California SR22 Insurance compare with other states?
In California if a driver is considered "high-risk" they are obligated to file for an SR22, for reasons explained above. Texas and Florida's requirements are similar to California's (DUI and other), however, what the insurance actually covers in Florida varies slightly:
$10,000 per person
$10,000 in property damage
Other states have different requirements:
Arizona and Illinois require an SR22 filing from drivers who have had their license suspended
Colorado, from those with too many points on their license
Missouri, from those who refuse an alcohol test during a driving while intoxicated check-in or if they've had continuous issues with their car insurance
Ohio, from those who have caused a certain amount of property damage, provided insufficient evidence of auto insurance and/or other severe violations. (15)
If you live in California and have had your driver license revoked, whether due to a drunk driving accident, multiple motor vehicle violations or expired registration, SR22 insurance may become your new best friend. It is an essential step in order to get your license back.
In order to acquire an SR22 you must work through both your auto insurance company as well as the State's DMV. Once they assess your eligibility, you will be on your way to fulfilling your requirements.
The cost of the insurance coverage with depend on the insurance provider underwriting it, as well as your driving history. It is important to receive quotes and compare prices before deciding. The whole process can be quite costly, therefore, shopping around first to gauge an appropriate amount will help you in the long run. If you move out of California, it is necessary to apply for an SR22 (or an alternative insurance policy) immediately in your new state. If you don't own a car, you'll need to look into non-owner SR22.
Staying safe on the road is key, but if something unfortunate occurs, or if you continue to ignore the rules, you'll need to understand the process for getting SR22 coverage, along with the other potential obligations and consequences that may follow.
1. “SR-22 in California: Auto Insurance After a Setback”, Source: https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/insurance/sr22-car-insurance-california#:~:text=California%20may%20require%20you%20to,a%20certificate%20with%20the%20department
2. “SR-22 Insurance in California”, Source: https://www.mis-insurance.com/what-is-sr22-insurance-and-what-does-it-cover/
3. “How Long Does A Prior SR-22 Stay On Your Record”, Source: https://www.autoinsdiscounters.com/blog/how-long-does-a-prior-sr-22-stay-on-your-record.aspx
4. “SR22 Requirements Following a California DUI Conviction”, Source: https://www.shouselaw.com/ca/dui/laws/sr22/
5. “SR-22 Insurance in California: What is It? How Much Does it Cost?”, Source: https://www.valuepenguin.com/car-insurance/sr22-california
6. “How Much Does an SR22 Insurance Cost?”, Source: https://www.breatheeasyins.com/how-much-is-sr22-insurance
7. “Non Owner SR22 vs SR22 Insurance”, Source: https://ultracarinsurance.com/non-owner-sr22-vs-sr22-insurance/#:~:text=The%20main%20difference%20between%20non,your%20license%20after%20a%20suspension
8. “What Is Non-Owner Car Insurance?”, https://www.forbes.com/advisor/car-insurance/non-owner/
9. “Non Owner Car Insurance: What Is It and Who Should Have It?”, Source: https://www.valuepenguin.com/non-owner-car-insurance-who-should-have-it#:~:text=Non%2Downer%20insurance%2C%20also%20called,you%20do%20not%20personally%20own.&text=Medical%20Payments%20or%20Personal%20Injury,Rental%20Car%20Liability
10. “What Happens If I Tamper With My Ignition Interlock Device?”, Source: https://www.intoxalock.com/blog/post/what-happens-if-i-tamper-with-my-iid/
11. “So how does an Alcohol Interlock Device actually work?”, Source: https://www.smartstartinterlocks.com.au/blogs/so-how-does-an-alcohol-interlock-device-actually-work2#:~:text=The%20alcohol%20interlock%20device%20measures,vehicle's%20engine%20will%20turn%20on
12. “What Is an Ignition Interlock Device (IID)?”, Source: https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/driver-education-and-safety/educational-materials/fast-facts/ignition-interlock-devices-ffdl-31/#:~:text=What%20Is%20an%20Ignition%20Interlock,the%20engine%20will%20not%20start
13. “California DUI School: Frequently Asked Questions”, Source: https://www.shouselaw.com/ca/dui/penalties/dui-school/
14. “California DUI laws”, Source: https://sr22insurance.net/california-dui-laws/
15. SR-22 Insurance State Guide”, Source: https://www.sr22insurancequotes.org/sr22-state-guide/