SR-22 Insurance: What the Heck is it and Why Should You Care?
You may be required to purchase a high risk, SR-22 insurance policy by the state of Washington as a result of a DUI conviction, a Reckless Driving conviction, or multiple convictions for civil traffic infractions. Typically, a driver is required to maintain an SR-22 policy for 3 years, but the underlying reason for the policy may change the total amount of time that you are required to carry it.
SR-22 is a creature of the government. Technically, SR-22 is a certificate of insurance issued by an insurance company that shows proof of liability insurance to the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL). It is Washington State's requirement that you have a form which proves you hold a high-risk auto insurance policy for specific periods of time. SR-22 is referred to as a 'Financial Responsibility Form.'
If your driver's license is suspended, Washington State may require you to provide SR -22 in order to get your license reinstated. Without an SR-22 Financial Responsibility Form, you cannot reinstate your license. If you are required to show proof of Financial Responsibility, you cannot just present your insurance card or even your insurance binder to DOL. A SR-22 is a separate filing that is sent to you by an insurance company to present as proof to the DOL. Many insurance companies will work with you to provide proof of SR-22 on the same day that you purchase the policy.
Just because you've been required to carry SR-22 insurance doesn't mean you don't have options. You can purchase high-risk insurance whether you own a vehicle or not. You can also apply SR-22 to a motorcycle policy. Finally, you can purchase SR-22 as a liability only policy on a vehicle, or liability plus full coverage (comprehensive and collision).
Why does this matter for me?An SR-22 policy is expensive. The SR-22 Financial Responsibility Form only requires a filing fee of approximately $15. The problem is that once you are required to carry SR-22, you are placed in a high risk category. If you weren't already a high risk policyholder, your insurance premiums will automatically increase.
It's impossible to state the cost of an SR-22 insurance policy because of all of the factors that go an insurance company's calculation (including type of offense, policy holder's age and prior driving history). However, according to Mothers Against Drunk drivers, the average amount of SR-22 based on a DUI conviction is between $3600 to $6000 a year. The amount is on top of all of the fines and fees that you encounter in order to reinstate your driver's license.