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Is displaying automobile insurance on your phone legal?

By Krystal Klei, Reporter
Published On: May 03 2013 03:33:11 PM CDT
Updated On: May 05 2013 11:11:39 AM CDT

We find out if its legal to use your vehicle insurance app to show law enforcement proof of insurance in Texas.

EL PASO, Texas -

In the digital era, auto insurance displayed on smart phones is becoming more and more popular.

But in some states, the use of digital automobile isn't actually legal. Texas is one of them.

Chris Zarate, a KVIA employee, learned the law discrepancy the hard way.

"I was pulling out down Westwind, barely made a left, and I heard 'Woop!'" Zarate said.

About two years ago, Zarate began using electronic auto insurance on his smart phone.

According to him, he had used the app in prior run-ins with the law regarding traffic citations.

A few weeks ago, he ran into trouble.

"I started to hand him the phone and he said, 'No, I don't need to see that. You need to carry your paper insurance,'" Zarate said.

He claims his cellphone app shows everything a paper card does.

Still, he got a citation for failure to provide proof of insurance, on top of a speeding citation.

The law on using a cellphone to provide auto insurance is blurry, not clearly defining if it must be on paper.

"The law refers to it as having a form with you that meets certain requirements and the form has to have certain things," El Paso Police Department spokesman Sgt. Chris Mears said.  

"So this appears to be one of those cases where the law lags behind technology catching up," he added.

Currently 11 states have laws on the books allowing the use of smart phone auto insurance .

While Texas is not one of them, a bill passed by the state Senate is working to change that. The bill, SB 1074, is making it's way through the House.

The Police Department does not plan to wait until the bill is made law. Instead, they're planning to move forward with technology.

"We're working on some shift training that we're going to put out to all the officers to where we will accept electronic proof as long as it has the same information required on the printed form," Mears said.

Still, in the meantime, Zarate and Mears said the best option is to simply carry both the paper form, and cellphone form in Texas.

Zarate told ABC-7 he expects the citation to be thrown out, because he can prove he was insured at the time.

Mears said the Police Department does not have an official date set for the training on electronic auto insurance, but it is in the works.

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