Keeping Up-To-Date To Drive Legally for Your Road Trip
So, you’re ready to embark on a road trip. You’ve got your trip all planned out. You know where you want to go, how long your trip is going to be, what you want to do, but did you make sure that you’re legal to drive?
Yes, we said legal to drive. It may sound preposterous to ask such a thing, but some people do go out on the road and drive illegally all the time, every day, and they’re not all criminals. They’re just your everyday individual who are either forgetful, or are a procrastinator, or the entire above plus clumsy and a bit of a daredevil who think everything will be just fine. Here, let us explain each category, individually:
( Just get me to what I want to know! Jump to --> Uninsured Motorists )
The forgetter: Joe is a busy man. He has lots to do every day, and can’t be bothered with things that are out of his normal routine. Joe knows that he got a reminder in the mail about renewing his vehicle registration seven months ago, but just hasn’t had the time or opportunity to get it taken care of. Sure, he could take care of it online, but Joe is never home, he’s busting his tail all week making a living. He vaguely remembers receiving an email about it, but who reads their emails anyway? Especially emails from the DMV?! He sat his vehicle registration renewal on the stack of to-do’s on the dining room table, but with everything else piling up, he just plain forgot about it.
The procrastinator: Jane knows that she has to take care of renewing her license this week at the DMV on her only day off during the weekdays, but has been putting it off for some time now. Every Monday she’s off and every Monday she thinks of something else she can do instead. Like, three Monday’s ago she needed to get the groceries, run errands at the bank and her kid’s school, and meet a friend for lunch. Two Monday’s ago Jane needed to get the oil changed in her car. Her car had been telling her all last week that she had 20%, 18%, now 15% oil life percentage left, so she just had to take it to the dealership that week. Last Monday she thought that it would be nice that since she had her oil changed to take a drive down to the beach and enjoy her day off. Pretty soon Jane is driving with an expired driver’s license, all because Jane had better things to do on her days off.
All of The Above + Clumsy and a Daredevil: Jimmy is kind of a clumsy guy sometimes. About 9 weeks ago, Jimmy spilled his whole cup of coffee on his mail from the day before. He went to grab his mail to clean up the mess and most of it turned to a sopping wet mush when he squeezed it with his hand. So, the only logical thing to do at the time was throw it all away, but one piece of mail in that pile was a letter of vehicle registration renewal. At the time, Jimmy thought, “Oh well, I can get them to print me out another one when I go to the place to get it renewed.” Well, Jimmy fell into the forgetter type person for a short time, then remembered that he had to do it soon, because the renewal was due in a few days. “I’ll go take care of it tomorrow, first thing”, thought Jimmy. Then, Jimmy became the procrastinator, and didn’t go first thing the next morning. He didn’t even go at all. He could have taken care of it all online, sure, but Jimmy doesn’t like taking care of things online. He’s a face-to-face kind of guy. Now that Jimmy realizes that he’s long overdue for renewal on his vehicle registration, he figures that it’s been okay this long, it should be fine a little while longer. “I mean, they won’t let me take care of it online now, right? Since its overdue now”, he says. Now, Jimmy is a daredevil, taking risks every time he drives his vehicle out on the road.
Driving with expired tags, driver’s license or with no insurance can cause you a lot more headaches than taking care of those things when they should have been taken care of. You Risk paying hefty fines, having your vehicle impounded or even risk jail time. Let’s start about the discussion of driving without insurance or driving under-insured first, since this type of legal requirement seems to be the one most reported on.
According to the Information Insurance Institute, in 2015, 13.0 percent of motorists, or about one in eight drivers, were uninsured, according to a 2017 study by the Insurance Research Council (IRC). The percentage has been rising since it hit a record low of 12.3 in 2010. Florida had the highest percentage of uninsured motorists, 26.7 percent, and Maine had the lowest, 4.5 percent.
Driving without car insurance is risky business, according to Insure.com. If you cause an accident, you're personally liable for injuries and damage to others, not to mention your own medical and car-repair bills. Let’s take the example of what the consequences are when you drive without insurance in the state of Texas.
First Time Offense in the State of Texas
The first time you get caught driving without valid insurance in Texas, you will probably get off pretty lightly, at least compared with other states. That is, of course, if you consider the following getting off lightly. First-time offenders will, by law, be cited and fined between $175 and $350. Additionally, a surcharge of $250 will be added to your annual driver’s license fee for each of the next three years. Added up, getting caught driving without insurance in Texas the first time will end up costing you between $925 and $1100.
The numbers go up quickly for subsequent convictions. If you are caught driving without insurance for an additional time, you will be fined between $350 and $1000. And you will still have to pay that additional $250 surcharge on your license for at least three years. There’s more. Repeat offenders also risk having their license revoked and their vehicle impounded. If that happens, you will face a long hard (and expensive) battle to get your license reinstated and your car back.
So, if you have been keeping track, the costs of driving without insurance in Texas have gone from hundreds to possibly thousands of dollars in fines, fees, and additional expenses. Compare these numbers to the cost of actually keeping your policy up-to-date and suddenly dropping your insurance doesn’t seem like such a good idea.
So, it’s really a good idea to make sure that you keep up with your vehicle insurance. First, make sure you are indeed insured. Also, make sure that if you are, that you are properly insured as per legal requirements in your state, and also be sure that you have a copy of your insurance for your vehicle kept with you at all times when you drive, like in your glove compartment. You don’t want to be on the road having fun on your road trip, just to have your happiness crumbled when you get pulled over and deal with the consequences of driving without insurance or not being properly insured.
Now you may be asking yourself, “If I’m properly covered in my home state, am I properly covered if I drive out of state?”
Does my car insurance cover me if I travel out of state?
According to Policy Genius, the simple answer is: generally, yes. Car insurance coverage requirements vary depending on which state you live in. Although you purchase coverage based on your own state's coverage options, your insurance should protect you even when you're driving clear across the nation.
In fact, if your insurance company doesn't sell policies in your destination state, you can still rely on your policy regardless of where you drive in the U.S. To that end, meeting the minimum insurance coverage in another state doesn't matter - so long as you carry the minimum in your home state.
So, what about your vehicle registration? Yea, insurance is important to have, you don’t want to be liable for accidents and you want to be sure to cover yourself and others if an accident occurs where it may be your fault. But, how important are vehicle registrations? It’s just a time in every year we have to tell the state, “Hey! I’m still driving my car. Here, take some more of my money, please.” Well, turns out that registering your vehicle is not only a legal requirement to drive your vehicle, but it’s also important and there are important reasons in doing so. Let’s first take a look at why we have to register our vehicles in the first place.
Why do we have to register our vehicles?
The purpose of motor vehicle registration is to establish a link between a vehicle and an owner or user of the vehicle. This link might be used for taxation or crime detection purposes. Car registration is basically the proof or the evidence that you have paid the taxes and fees that having a car comes with to have it on the road legally. Car registration needs to occur for any and all of your motor vehicles that are driven on public property. Registration is tied in with your insurance and your title and it is a fee that must be paid on an annual basis. So, what they’re saying is, to stay a legal driver every year, let us tax you some more and let us have another outlet for us to track who you are. You didn’t hear this from us though, of course.
Driving a vehicle that is not properly registered would not be good for you either, nor would it make for a fun filled road trip. A vehicle that is not properly registered is punishable by fine or even imprisonment! So, unless you like giving money away to the government, be sure that you’re all legal before you take that road trip.
Now, some states do allow grace periods to renew your car registration, but not all possibly. DMV.org gives more detail into this topic and more about driving legally. You really should research yourself whether or not your state does allow for a grace period to renew, but it is recommended that you take care of such matters before it expires and certainly before you take that road trip you’re looking forward to if it’s set to expire before or during your time on the road.
Can you get pulled over for expired tags?
Is this a trick question? Is this a serious question? Well, uh yeah, yes you can get pulled over for expired tags, as a matter of fact you probably will get pulled over for expired tags if the popo sees you. So, what will most likely happen if you do get pulled over? According to DefensiveDriving.com an officer may elect to do one of the following:
- Issue a citation for the violation. You will then be required to renew your registration typically within no longer than thirty days.
- Let you know of the violation, but let you off with a warning and not write a citation.
- Write a citation and also impound or tow the vehicle (if the registration is expired more than six months). You may not regain possession of the vehicle until you renew the registration and pay any associated fines.
- Give you a citation, but not impound your vehicle even though your registration is expired more than six months.
Again, before you hit the road, you may want to double check that you’re all set with being up to date on your tags and registration. Otherwise, you will not have a successful road trip, which in turn may lead you to never want to experience taking road trips ever again, which is not what we want, right?!
Now, we come to an important piece of identification that you must make sure you have up to date to even operate a motorized vehicle of just about any kind, your driver’s license. Firstly, which is a whole other topic all together, is remembering to even take your license with you when you operate your vehicle.
Driving without a license is illegal in every state, but most states differentiate between operating a vehicle without a valid driver's license and driving a vehicle without proof of a driver's license (such as when a driver fails to physically carry his or her valid driver’s license). While you won't be arrested for simply failing to grab your wallet before getting behind the wheel, it is a much more serious offense to drive with the knowledge that your license is suspended or otherwise invalid.
Now, for our purposes of this blog article, we’re discussing driving with out-of-date documents and licenses, not suspended or revoked licenses. So, if you’re planning on taking a road trip with a suspended or revoked driver’s license, and you’re reading this article, then we suggest that you may want to rethink your plans, just saying.
You want to be very aware of when your driver’s license expiration date is and whether or not it is expected to expire before or during your time on the road for your planned road trip. If you fail to have a license that is valid and up to date, you may experience a hefty fine. As with anywhere you go, the severity of punishment you receive depends on where you are, and of which type of person you come across, what their day or life is like, and especially how much respect you give to them. Another factor is how many prior violations you’ve had. In most cases, the first offense is not a simple traffic infraction, but a misdemeanor that carries much heavier penalties than a traffic ticket. Once you move on to a second offense and beyond, it’s often a felony.This, if you’re paying attention, is not good, not good at all for you at that point. So, just be sure that you have a valid driver’s license that’s up to date.
Look, we’re not trying to bring fear into your life or scare you out of taking a road trip. We’d be shooting ourselves in the foot if we were doing that. Our business is based around road trips and getting people interested in taking them. We’re here as a guide, an informer, a friend, an extension of the road tripping community out there who want to bring the road trip in America back to life again and make it the most sought after activity to pursue. We want to make it fun and exciting, and to do so we try to help you be aware of some of the important tasks to take care of before you set out on that grand road trip adventure. Road tripping is meant to be fun and exciting; we want it to be that way for you every time you take your vehicle out on the open road. That’s why we saw it important to share this type of information for you and others to keep all road trip enthusiasts informed, safe and free of having to lose a lot more than the opportunity of good times on the road.
As always, keep safe and enjoy your next road trip adventure. Who knows, we may see you out there on the open road.
Before you put it in drive, leave it in park and call dibs on items for your next road vacay at OmigodDibs.com