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If You Borrow a Car, Be Sure It's Insured

Oct 24, 2007

By The Bellingham Herald, Wash.

Oct. 25--Today's question: If a person has insurance on his own personal vehicle, but borrows a friend's car that is uninsured and gets pulled over, does the ticket go to the vehicle's owner or the person driving the car at the time?

Traffic Guy's answer: An infraction for no insurance goes to the driver. State law says no person may operate a motor vehicle without liability insurance. The key word is "operate."

You can own an uninsured vehicle as long as it is parked. Once it starts moving it requires insurance. Typical insurance policies cover a specific vehicle, so your own policy won't cover you in a borrowed car. There is one exception -- an uncommon policy called broadform insurance, which covers an individual rather than a specific vehicle. Very few drivers have broadform insurance, so it's a good idea to make sure that any car you borrow is properly insured.

As long as I'm giving advice, here's another good idea: Whenever you drive someone else's vehicle, find out where they keep the registration and proof of insurance before you start driving.

In the event that you get pulled over for a traffic violation, having the paperwork handy will reduce your anxiety in an inherently stressful situation.

Another question: Are motorcycles required to carry liability insurance in Washington? After looking through the RCW in Washington, I cannot find anything definitive.

Traffic Guy's answer: Tucked down at the bottom of RCW 46.30.020, you'll find a brief sentence that states that the law requiring liability insurance doesn't apply to motorcycles or mopeds. That makes Washington one of only two states in the U.S. that doesn't require liability insurance on motorcycles.

Also, a motorcyclist who doesn't carry insurance still has financial responsibility for any damage or injuries if at fault in a crash.

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Copyright (c) 2007, The Bellingham Herald, Wash.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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