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Ocean County Legislator: Allow Drivers to Use Smartphones to Show Vehicle Registration, Insurance

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A New Jersey vehicle registration renewal form. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
A New Jersey vehicle registration renewal form. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

New Jersey’s laws have not kept up with technology, allowing drivers whose vehicles are properly registered and insured to rack up tickets simply because they don’t have a piece of paper to prove it.

One Ocean County legislator wants to change that. While motor vehicle registration and insurance status can be confirmed by most police officers by way of their mobile data terminal, or a radio call to headquarters, state law still requires motors to physically hand a piece of paper to a police officer to prove their vehicle is registered and insured. Assemblyman Ron Dancer’s latest bill, which was passed by that body on Monday, would allow electronic vehicle registration and proof of insurance in New Jersey – using the same technology that allows secure documents such as airplane boarding passes and even U.S. Customs declarations at airports to be completed via smartphone.

“We are living in a digital age, so it makes sense that we lessen the stress of finding a paper document and allow drivers to show proof of registration electronically,” said Dancer (R-Ocean).

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This is not the first time Dancer pushed to modernize the state’s Motor Vehicle Commission. In 2016, he sponsored a bill that was signed by Gov. Chris Christie to study the feasibility of issuing digital driver’s licenses through a mobile app. Despite the study, licenses are another document that must be physically carried under the law while driving.

“People are rarely without their phones,” said Dancer. “We have to keep up with technology and offer drivers the convenience and accessibility they have become accustomed to. Allowing drivers to show proof of insurance and registration on their phone makes the process easier and safer for both the officer and driver.”

In 2015, Gov. Christie signed legislation to allow proof of auto insurance to be displayed either physically through a paper card or electronically via a smartphone, tablet or other mobile device. The practice is now permitted in 49 states and the District of Columbia.

Under this bill, the Motor Vehicle Commission must publish rules and regulations addressing the issuance, design and content of electronic registration certificates, as well as the deterrence and detection of counterfeit or fraudulent certificates.

Electronic proof of vehicle registration is currently permitted in Tennessee and Michigan.

The bill unanimously cleared the Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee on Monday. It passed the Assembly 74-0 today.