Whether your driver's license was temporarily suspended after a DUI conviction or a few unpaid parking tickets, you may find yourself wondering what you'll need to do to preserve your ability to drive in the future. In many parts of the country, especially those without a strong public transportation presence, a driver's license can be crucial when it comes to getting or maintaining steady employment.
Even after becoming eligible for the reinstatement of your driver's license, you can find yourself facing challenges you may not have expected. In most cases, a license suspension can boot you into the "high risk" group for auto insurance purposes, potentially increasing your premium and requiring you to prove your financial responsibility before your license will be returned.
Fortunately, navigating this process doesn't need to be overly complicated. Read on to learn more about the SR-22 process and how the reinstatement of driving privileges is often dependent upon your ability to obtain auto insurance.
The SR-22 Form
An SR-22 is a standard state form certifying the applicant's financial responsibility for his or her vehicle. In almost all cases, this certification of financial responsibility is really a certification of insurance coverage—very few drivers have the income and assets needed to self-insure against car crashes.
After you obtain an SR-22 form showing you've obtained valid auto insurance coverage, you'll be able to visit your local bureau of motor vehicles to seek reinstatement of your driver's license, assuming the other terms and conditions of your suspension have been met.
Who Needs This Form
Regardless of why your driver's license was suspended in the first place, you'll usually need an SR-22 for reinstatement.
Many of the most common reasons for suspension, from DUI to multiple moving offenses to driving without valid insurance coverage, can put other drivers at financial risk if you're involved in an accident; proving you have insurance coverage mitigates much of this risk.
If you're not sure whether you're required to have an SR-22, you'll want to take another look at any written order or judgment from the traffic court; often, this order will clearly set out the requirements you'll need to fulfill before your license can be reinstated.
What to Expect
Obtaining an SR-22 is a fairly easy process; you'll just need to contact your insurance company and ask for a copy of this form. You may be charged a fee by your insurance company for providing this form and, in some states, an additional fee may be charged by the BMV once you've filed the form with them.
If your previous auto insurance company dropped you after your license suspension, your first step will be to obtain valid auto insurance. You may want to contact an insurance broker, who will be able to shop around on your behalf at various high-risk providers to find you the best rate and terms possible.
Depending upon the parameters set out in your court order or written communications from the BMV, you may be required to maintain higher liability limits than the minimum state-prescribed limits.
It's important to know your insurance requirements in detail before seeking your SR-22, as failure to obtain the "right" kind of coverage could throw an unnecessary wrench into the process.
Once you've obtained your SR-22, you'll need to make sure you maintain steady insurance coverage for at least three years (or longer, if your state requires it); missing even a single insurance payment could cause your policy to lapse, which can result in an automatic report to your state's BMV and the suspension of your license.
Fortunately, once you've reached the end of your SR-22 period and have maintained insurance coverage and a clean driving record during this time, the SR-22 requirement will be removed and your insurance rate will likely drop, giving you some extra breathing room in your monthly budget.