All drivers present varying levels of risk when they get behind the wheel. However, some present more than others. Most people carry car insurance to help protect themselves and others from the ramifications that these risks might trigger. Still, it is doubly important that the highest-risk drivers carry this coverage. As a result, the State of Texas has a legal way of forcing high risk drivers to carry coverage. It is the Texas SR-22 penalty. Why might you face this punishment from the state?
If you face this penalty, it doesn’t mean you just have to get car insurance. It means you also have to present proof of it and maintain it. That’s a heavier burden that the state places on others.
Texas At-Fault Laws
Texas is an at-fault insurance state. That means that if a driver is responsible for a wreck or other accident, then they have to cover the damage costs. It makes sense that you would have to pay for your own losses. Still, at-fault rules also require you to cover the damage you cause others in the wreck you cause.
To ensure drivers take responsibility for the accidents they cause, the state requires you to present proof of financial responsibility. Most people do that by getting car insurance. More specifically, they get auto liability insurance. Liability insurance applies to the damage you might cause to others. Texas requires drivers to carry:
- $30,000 bodily injury liability insurance per person
- $60,000 bodily injury liability insurance per accident
- $25,000 property damage liability coverage
So, if you hit another car when you run a stop light, the accident might be your fault. Therefore, it is your liability insurance that might pay for the vehicle damage or injuries of the other driver.
Since nearly everyone has to carry this coverage, it is doubly important that those drivers with the highest risks carry coverage. As a result, the state often imposes extra penalties on these drivers. One of those is the requirement to get an SR-22 penalty.
What are SR-22s?
SR-22s are certificates of verification that attach to your car insurance policy. They prove for the State of Texas that the listed driver has an active car insurance policy. High-risk drivers will face a requirement to get this certificate following significant traffic offenses. The offenses that might trigger the penalty are things like:
- Driving without the mandatory car insurance
- DUI charges
- A significant number of points on your license
- Having a license suspension
The SR-22 is not a car insurance policy itself, even though you register for it with your insurance agency. Rather, it is a form that proves that you carry the minimum required car insurance set by state law. So, to activate the form, you will have to carry car insurance with at least the state’s required 25/50/25 coverage limits.
Why You Must Keep Car Insurance Active
After you get the auto policy and the SR-22 form, you will have to file the form with the Texas Department of Public Safety. After you submit that form, it will remain on file with the state for up to three years.
During that time, you must keep your car insurance active continuously. If you let your car insurance lapse during those three years, you will break the penalty that the SR-22 imposed. It will immediately trigger an alert to the state, who will cancel your driver’s license. Furthermore, if you commit further driving penalties during the duration of the SR-22, you will still face additional penalties.
You might wonder what the point is of having to carry this penalty? The simplest answer is that it helps protect not only you, but also other drivers. By requiring the highest-risk drivers to prove they carry car insurance through an SR-22, the state takes an important step in protecting others on its roads.
You already know that an auto liability insurance policy will pay for the damage you might cause to other people. Therefore, the SR-22 provides reassurance that those most-at-risk of harming others also have the ability to help those to whom they cause harm. Others will therefore have more reassurance that they can get help in case you make a mistake.
All the same, the SR-22 will also make sure that you, the driver, have insurance. Therefore, it is a positive piece of assistance when you need it. With coverage, you will be able to afford to cover the damage costs you might cause to others (which you hope never happen). Your own wallet won’t have to suffer as a result.
What’s more is that, in many cases, you can purchase more liability coverage than just the minimums required by the SR-22. For example, you might be able to get more than $100,000 in protection. Therefore, you might be able to pay for more of the damage costs for extremely severe losses. You already are a high-risk driver, so you could almost certainly benefit from the additional help. When you file for your SR-22, ask your Texas auto agent to increase your liability limits to offer more help.