A number of new laws go into effect on Friday and there is one that will affect anybody who owns or will own a motor vehicle or motorcycle in 2016.
Minnesotans who will register their vehicle with the state, renew license tabs or transfer ownership of a motor vehicle to somebody else will have to provide proof of insurance when completing the transaction.
Vehicle owners will have to provide the name of their insurance company, the policy number and the policy's expiration date.
Word from the Department of Public Safety's Driver and Vehicle Services division is that vehicle owners won't have to show an actual insurance card to a clerk. They will just have to record their insurance information on renewal and registration papers, meaning they can use anything from numbers written down on a piece of paper to an image of an insurance card stored on a cell phone to show proof.
State law requires drivers to have insurance to operate a motor vehicle. Insurance also is required on and on vehicles such as a working car that's parked in a driveway but seldomly driven.
The move is an effort to cut down on the number of uninsured motorists. A report to the Legislature from the Motor Vehicle Insurance Coverage Task Force estimated that about 10.8 percent of Minnesotans drive without insurance.
Estimates from insurance agents who process crash claims involving uninsured motorists put the number of uninsured motorists as high as 15 to 20 percent, said Mark Kulda of the Insurance Federation of Minnesota.
In 2012, 7,343 people were convicted of driving without insurance and 17,789 were convicted for failing to provide proof of insurance, according to the report.
The penalty for driving without insurance or failing to show proof of insurance is a $275 fine and a revoked driver's license, the task force's report said.
Before the early 2000s, drivers had to bring proof of insurance with them when doing business with the Driver and Vehicle Services. But when the state ran into budget problems, clerks who verified that drivers had insurance were cut and nobody was checking. Vehicle owners only had to attest that they had insurance. That led to a slow but steady rise in the number of uninsured motorists, Kulda said.
With change in the law, "it will be going back to the old way of doing things," Kulda said. "We think that will be enough to spur people to buy insurance."
Of course, that does not mean drivers won't buy insurance, complete their transactions and then cancel the insurance at a later date.
"Nothing will stop that," Kulda said. But "this is better than nothing."
Here is the language of the new law:
Every owner, when applying for motor vehicle or motorcycle registration, reregistration, or transfer of ownership, must provide information showing that the motor vehicle or motorcycle is covered by an insurance policy. Information required under this subdivision consists of the insurance company's name, the policy number, and the policy expiration date for the subject motor vehicle or motorcycle.
This section is effective January 1, 2016, and applies to registrations, reregistrations, and transfers of ownership occurring on or after that date