Virginia is one of the only states in the country that does not require drivers to have auto insurance, but that may soon be changing under legislation that is picking up bipartisan support in the General Assembly.
The current system in Virginia allows someone to register and drive an uninsured vehicle as long as they pay a $500 fee. Paying the fee does not provide the driver with any insurance coverage whatsoever, meaning the uninsured driver would be personally liable in the event of a crash.
“Many years ago, the General Assembly created the fee as an alternative to buying insurance,” said Republican state Sen. Frank Ruff. “I have no idea what the thought process was at the time or what policy that serves.”
Under Ruff’s legislation, the option to register an uninsured vehicle would be eliminated.
The bill would allow uninsured drivers who have paid the $500 fee to continue driving uninsured until July 1, 2024.
“This is to address the issue of too many drivers who skirt the responsible thing to do of buying auto insurance,” Ruff said. “It requires those using our roads to have insurance.”
According to Linda Ford, the acting commissioner of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, more than 5,000 people had paid the $500 fee to avoid being insured in the 2022 fiscal year.
Virginia and New Hampshire are currently the only states that do not require auto insurance.
“I used to think that it was a good thing that we provided the $500 fee option,” said Republican state Sen. David Suetterlein. “This is one of the issues that my thinking has changed more than any other over the last decade.”
Suetterlein said that “less affluent” people who get into an accident with someone who isn’t insured are “really in a bad way.”
The legislation seems likely to pass in the General Assembly.
It has already passed in the Democrat-controlled state Senate and is receiving bipartisan support in the House of Delegates, which is controlled by Republicans.