N.J. Lawmaker Asks Why Insurance Card is Bigger than License

November 28, 2007

Ever wonder why New Jersey’s auto insurance cards are so much larger than a driver’s license or vehicle registration?

Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan wonders.

“It just doesn’t make sense to have two motor vehicle documents at one size and a third document a completely different size,” Diegnan said.

The Middlesex County Democrat has introduced legislation requiring insurers to provide wallet-sized insurance cards in hopes of making it easier to store and find the documents.

Motorists, Diegnan said, deserve documentation that is “convenient, not clumsy.”

New Jersey motorists must have their license, registration and insurance with them when driving.

New Jersey licenses and registrations are about 21/2 inches long and 11/2 inches wide.

Yet state regulations require auto insurance cards be between 3 inches by 5 inches and 51/2 inches by 81/2 inches.

Marshall McKnight, spokesman for the state banking and insurance department, said the larger cards allow enough room for anti-counterfeiting measures.

But Diegnan said his bill promotes convenience and helps motorists who would end up in court because they lost their insurance card.

Motorists face $150 fines for failing to produce an insurance card.

“As long as production costs aren’t passed on to motorists through higher premiums, I don’t see any reason to oppose the bill,” said David Weinstein, of AAA Mid-Atlantic.

But Weinstein and The Insurance Council of New Jersey noted many motorists leave the cards, regardless of size, in their glove compartment so more than one person can drive the car.

“If a wallet sized card were to be produced, there would inevitably be circumstances where the card is passed back and forth among drivers,” said Rachael Moore, spokeswoman for the council that represents 27 insurance companies. “And it is bound to happen that the person driving the vehicle would forget to also get the ID card and not be able to produce it.”

She said new cards would also increase costs for insurers and policyholders and create another problem, noting the many details and security measures placed on each card.

“Decreasing the size of the card would necessitate a font so small is would be very difficult to read, to say the least,” Moore said.

But Diegnan’s bill wouldn’t prohibit insurers from issuing larger cards. They would just have to produce at least one wallet-sized card. That way, Diegnan said, larger cards can stay with the automobile, but the driver can take the wallet-sized card.

Still, McKnight said only about 2 percent of tickets issued last year came from failing to produce an insurance card.

“We don’t really see the need for the bill,” he said.

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