Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health in...

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer

UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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In a nutshell...

  • Every state has a minimum level of required insurance coverage
  • The penalties for driving without car insurance vary by state
  • Many factors come into play when car insurance companies come up with premiums

California is one of the busiest states when it comes to the number of cars on the road, among other things.

Freeway traffic in Los Angeles is legendary; in fact, it is not entirely uncommon to have traffic on the freeways at 11:30 at night. California, like every other state, requires a certain level of insurance coverage to protect drivers.

Some estimate the number of uninsured drivers in California to be around 20 percent of all drivers. If you live in California, it might be time to review your insurance coverage.

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Types of Car Insurance Coverage

Insurers offer several different options for automobile insurance coverage to meet the needs of consumers.

When “full coverage” is referred to, this means a combination of three types of insurance coverage: liability, comprehensive and collision.

Other types of coverage include personal injury protection for medical coverage, uninsured motorist coverage and policy add-ons such as a provision for towing and labor or a rental car.

Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage protects a person who is the victim of an accident caused by someone who has no insurance or does not have enough insurance to cover all the damage they caused.

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Car Insurance Requirements in California

Most states require at least liability coverage, although some may require personal injury protection and/or uninsured motorist protection.

The state of California requires drivers to carry liability insurance with limits of 15/30/5, which translates to $15,000 of bodily injury coverage per person in one accident; $30,000 bodily injury coverage for one whole accident, and $5,000 coverage for any property damage done to another person’s vehicle or other property.

The state’s required minimum insurance might not provide enough coverage, and drivers may want to increase the limits for their own policy.

Consider that one rear-end accident with no injuries could cost over $5,000 in vehicle repairs, which would not be fully covered under the minimum liability requirement of $5,000.

Whatever amount is not covered may need to be paid out-of-pocket.

Penalties for Driving with No Car Insurance in California

 In California, operating a vehicle without insurance violates California’s Vehicle Code Section 16029.

The penalties are severe, with a fine up to $500 plus other possible fines. Additionally, other penalties including a driver’s license suspension and impoundment of the car may be enforced.

The car’s owner will need to pay fees for towing and storage if the car is impounded.

Drivers involved in an accident without insurance face even stiffer penalties.

Most likely, drivers will be mandated to file an SR-22 form and keep it active for three years. They may also have to pay for medical costs and car repairs as well, out of their own pocket.

Traffic Accident Statistics for California

Traffic fatality statistics, while somewhat morbid, are a good thing to know when it comes to understanding the risks inherent in driving and the true need for safe driving and auto insurance.

In 2009, California had a total of 3,081 fatalities due to various types of traffic accidents. Somewhat surprisingly, the largest percentage of fatalities, 1,874, occurred with drivers in a single vehicle.

In other words, there was no other car involved in the crash. Cars that accidentally drove off the roadway caused the next highest fatality group at 1,468 victims.

The top 5 counties in California in terms of traffic fatalities are not a huge surprise, given that they are some of the largest, most populated counties in the state.

Los Angeles County was the worst, followed by San Bernardino County, San Diego County, Riverside County and finally, Kern County.

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Car Insurance Factors You Can Control

Many factors come into play when car insurance companies come up with premiums. The good news is that some of them can be controlled, to keep insurance rates as low as possible.

A person’s driving history is one of the biggest factors. Even receiving a minor speeding ticket can cause an increase. It is best to attend traffic school if possible and have the point removed.

The type of car a person drives also affects insurance rates and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety publishes a list each year of the safest cars. Choosing one of these models can definitely make a difference in insurance premiums.

Insurance companies are also starting to look at peoples’ credit history these days since statistics show that drivers who have low credit scores also have more accidents.

Finding Car Insurance in California

Looking for the highest quality insurance with the lowest rates may seem like a lot of work, and not all insurance companies with cheap rates have good service.

Several of the larger, high-quality insurance companies can be found online, with websites that provide fast quotes. Progressive Insurance, Allstate, and State Farm are just a few to try.

Additionally, for drivers with a few blemishes on their record, finding a company that specializes in providing low rates for these types of higher risk drivers, such as AIS Insurance in California, can help save money on car insurance.

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