In order to register and legally operate a motor vehicle in the state of Pennsylvania, drivers are required to maintain “financial responsibility” with both medical benefits (no-fault) coverage and vehicle liability insurance. The requirements serve to fully protect drivers in the event of an accident. State law requires you to carry the following amounts of medical benefits and liability insurance: a minimum of $5,000 for medical benefits, a minimum of $15,000 for bodily injury per person, $30,000 bodily injury per accident and $5,000 property damage.
If the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) ever determines that you operate your vehicle without the required insurance, you’re at risk of losing your driving privileges and having your registration suspended. You could face a three-month suspension of your vehicle registration as well as driver’s license, unless you either opt to pay a one time civil penalty, or was lapsed for less than 31 days. You are subject to a $300 fine and a total of $176 in restoration fees in order to get your license and vehicle registration back.
Penalties for Driving Without Insurance
Whether you are stopped in traffic and failed to present proof of auto insurance, or your insurance company notified the department about your policy cancellation, the three-month suspension takes immediate effect, and it can cost as much as $476 in total to restore your license and registration after the suspension is up. The registration plate, sticker, card and driver’s license must be surrendered to the PennDOT during the suspension period. Your vehicle is prohibited from being driven by anyone during the suspension.
Penalties for 1st and Subsequent Offenses
If you fail to present valid proof of active insurance when requested by law enforcement, such as at traffic stops or at the scene of the accident, you will be fined for driving without insurance. For each offense, you are hit with a $300 fine for driving uninsured and a three-month suspension of both your vehicle registration and driver’s license. You’re required to pay $88 to restore your vehicle registration and another $88 fee to reinstate your driver’s license. In addition, you could face the impoundment of your vehicle. Pennsylvania does allow drivers an alternative to serving the suspension, and you have the option to make a payment of a civil penalty (see below).
|Driving Uninsured Fine||$300|
|Suspended for three months||$88|
|Suspended for three months*||$91|
|*Suspension waived if you choose to pay a $500 civil penalty|
Statement of Non-Operation of Vehicle (MV-221)
The only exception to registration and license suspension when you are caught without insurance is if the lapse of insurance was for a period of less than 31 days, and you could prove to the PennDOT that the vehicle was not driven during the lapse in coverage. If you know your insurance is going to lapse, surrender your registration plate immediately upon a lapse in coverage, and nothing will happen. However, in case you received a PennDOT notice regarding your lapse, and the lapse is within 31 days during which time you have not driven your car, file a MV-221 form to avoid restoration fees.
Also note that because insurers are only required to notify the PennDOT when your insurance policy is canceled, but not when you take up a new policy, it is best for you to update your own auto insurance information with the department when you know there had been a short period of lapse.
Civil Penalty Option
Pennsylvania state law does offer the option of paying a civil penalty to waive the suspension of your vehicle registration. You can under Vehicle Code 1786 (d)(1.1) pay a $500 civil penalty instead of having your car's registration frozen for three months, in case other drivers in your family need to use it. You'll just have to pay the civil penalty of $500, along with a fee of $88 to restore the registration to the PennDOT, and provide proof of current insurance. These steps will allow you to maintain registration on your vehicle without the requirement to serve a three month registration suspension. Your driving privileges, however, are still suspended - paying the civil penalty only waives the vehicle registration suspension.
You should know that opting to pay the civil penalty vs. serving the suspension can only be done once in a 12-month period. In other words, if you ever get caught driving without insurance within 12 months from the last offense, the suspension of your driving privilege will be compulsory.