East Providence pols spearhead bills allowing drivers to use electronic proof of insurance

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PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island moved one step closer to joining a host of other states which allow drivers to replace their hard copy insurance cards with their mobile devices.

The State Senate passed legislation Thursday, April 3, to do just that. The bill’s lead sponsor is Sen. William Conley (D-Dist. 18), the city native who represents East Providence and Pawtucket. His legislation comes on the heels of a similar bill passed in the House, spearheaded by local Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence).

If enacted, which seems likely, proof of financial responsibility could be provided to a law enforcement officer in the case of a traffic stop or an accident by using a customer’s smartphone, tablet or other mobile electronics. The Senate passed the bill in a 33-0 vote.

Rhode Island would become the 32nd state to allow drivers to use a digital platform, following the most recent previous like legislation passed in South Carolina in early March of this year.

“There are an abundance of auto insurance customers who own electronic devices – especially smartphones – and would like to be able to use their digital insurance cards as a matter of convenience,” said Sen. Conley said of the bill (2014-S 2444).

He continued, “Obviously, cutting down on the number of paper cards is also beneficial to the environment. But mostly, this bill is about keeping up with the times and providing for a more efficient process.”

Sen. Conley’s legislation includes a provision that prohibits police officers from viewing any other content on those devices, thus protecting individuals’ right to privacy. Both the insurance industry and the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) support the potential change in state law.

The House versions of the bill (2014-H 7098, 2014-H 7125A) – sponsored by Rep. Amore and Brian Patrick Kennedy (D-Dist. 38, Hopkinton, Westerly) respectively – have passed through the House chamber and are awaiting Senate approval. At least one bill must pass through both chambers in order to be transferred to the governor’s desk for a signature into law.

Sen. David E. Bates (R-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence) sponsored a similar version of the legislation (2014-S 2055) as well.

Sen. Conley’s bill will be submitted to the House for approval. If and when it passes, the final version will be submitted to Gov. Lincoln Chafee for his signature into law.

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