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It’s possible that driving with a cell phone may be an advantage.

A California legislator’s bill to enable auto insurance policyholders to issue proof of coverage verification via a mobile electronic device, such as a smartphone, is among several similar bills in at least a handful of states in various stages of passage.

Assembly Bill 1708, authored by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Silver Lake, would enable a person required to provide evidence of financial responsibility to do so through the use of a mobile electronic device, according to the bill’s wording. Gatto introduced his bill earlier this week.

A similar bill in Idaho, Senate Bill 1319, passed out of the Senate Transportation Committee unanimously on Thursday, and Arizona, Maryland and Mississippi are among states with bills making their way through  those respective legislatures that would enable motorists to display insurance information in electronic format.

The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America is one group that’s sponsoring or supporting bills to enable motorists to display proof of insurance in electronic format in several states, according to Nicole Mahrt Ganley, PCIAA’s director of public affairs for the western region.

“This is something we’ve discussed in our auto policy committees, and our members are supportive of it,” Ganley said.

But Ganely said that while PCIAA supports the intent of Gatto’s bill, they have concerns with its language.

Gatto’s bill would amend sections of California’s insurance and its vehicle codes. The bill states:

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any insurer issuing policies of automobile liability insurance or motor vehicle liability insurance shall, upon request of either the named insured or the Department of Motor Vehicles, promptly issue to that person or the department written verification as to the existence of that coverage, and issue, upon the request of the insured, verification as to the existence of that coverage, to a mobile electronic device.”

The bill would also amend Section 16028 of the vehicle code to read: “The evidence of financial responsibility may be provided using a mobile electronic device.”

Despite the bill’s wording, Gatto said the intent of his bill is not to force insurance companies to participate.

“This is not a mandate,” he told Insurance Journal. “It’s not designed to be a mandate.”

Gatto said the bill amends part of the insurance code that contains mandates, making his amendment sound like it’s a mandate, but “this is just designed to be an option.”

The only mandate in his bill is that police who pull over motorists must accept a proof of insurance in an electronic form.

The impetus behind the bill is to eliminate the hassle of carrying around, and looking around for, proof of insurance on slips of paper, which policyholders get anew every year, or every quarter.

“Most people today, their whole life is on their cell phone and their laptop,” Gatto said. “They have a paperless life…they just feel this is a total hassle to keep this paper in their car.”

Gatto said he’s been pulled over and had in his possession the wrong quarter’s proof of insurance card, rendering him unable to show proof of current auto insurance.

“This just would make it a lot easier for folks,” he said, adding that even those who continue to receive proof of insurance in paper form would have the option under his bill to scan the paper and put the document in a PDF or JPG format on their phone.

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