Question: We’ve had a lot of car break-ins in our area lately. An obvious course of action is not to leave valuables in the car. But what about paperwork like registration and proof of insurance? Deleting documents every time you leave a vehicle seems like a recipe for an awkward moment when you forget them or someone else is driving the vehicle. Do you recommend taking them or leaving them in the vehicle?
Responnse: Yes, you are supposed to have your registration and insurance documents in your vehicle when driving, but crime prevention officials will tell you it’s a bad idea to leave them there when you’re not with them. the car. What do you do when crime prevention advice doesn’t quite match the law?
The chances of your car being broken into, your registration stolen and the police stopping you for a traffic violation before you have time to get a new registration are remarkably low. But if you’re the one who got into this position, those low odds aren’t comforting, and you’ve just shown that low odds are always non-zero.
The law requires that your vehicle registration “be carried in the vehicle for which it is issued” and that your proof of insurance “be provided upon request by a law enforcement officer.” You might think you’re obligated to keep hard copies in the car, but a few years ago the registration and insurance laws were changed to allow documents in an “electronic format”. You could take a photo of your registration and upload your insurance card from your insurance company, and you’d be set.
It doesn’t solve the problem if you let a friend or family member borrow your car. If they are stopped by the police and call you asking where your documents are, you can text them the digital images, but that seems less than ideal. If the hard copies in the vehicle seem like the best option, you can put them somewhere other than the glove box so they’re harder to find. (Of course, if a thief can’t find them, your friend who borrows the car probably won’t be able to find them either, unless you remember to tell them where they are.)
You can make copies of both documents and then bring a large black marker to your address. The problem is the unlikely, but not zero, possibility that someone will use the address on your listing to come to your house and steal your stuff because they know you’re not there. The law doesn’t say photocopies are okay (or unacceptable), but if a photo on your phone is OK, a photocopy is probably OK too. If an officer thinks the copy is suspicious (or if you don’t have your registration with you), it’s easy enough to check the vehicle registration via their car’s mobile data terminal. There is no database to confirm your insurance, so you will need it for sure.
It’s not a guarantee, but from what I’ve observed, you’re unlikely to get a ticket for forgetting your registration (assuming it’s current), but more likely to get one one for not having proof of insurance.
Ultimately, your driving habits will be the most important factor in determining whether or not you will need to produce your registration card and insurance card. A missed registration doesn’t cause an accident, but distraction, impaired driving, speeding and other risky behaviors do, and that’s what the police watch out for.
If you focus on safe driving habits, chances are you’ll never have to test what happens if you don’t have your registration card with you.