Question: Recently, while at church, a member’s car was broken into. The only things taken were the garage door opener and the registration with the member’s address on it.
The perpetrator then went to the member’s house and burglarized it.
The question came up: Would it be OK to have a copy of your registration and insurance on your cellphone as proof of registration and insurance so that if anyone were to break in, they wouldn't get vital information to inflict further damage?
— Steve K., Puyallup
Answer: Yes, it is OK.
Washington is among a growing number of states that allow drivers to use cellphones and other portable electronic devices to establish proof of insurance and registration. Our law went into effect in July 2013, after passing unanimously in the Senate and with just one no-vote in the House.
Insurance companies like the change because it keeps them from having to print and mail paper certificates. Electronic versions are also more accurate. Cards often are issued for six months and can make it appear that people who cancel their policy or fail to pay premiums are still insured.
You might not be as comfortable letting an officer take your cellphone back to his car as you are with the crumpled paper you dig out of your glove box. Privacy concerns might be somewhat alleviated by this: officers are restricted to viewing specific documents and are not allowed to browse through other content.
Remember, you’ll want to save the documents in a format that’s readable if you’re stopped somewhere without cell service.
Consider this, too, if you’re thinking about going paperless: You’re on the hook if the officer drops the phone or otherwise damages it.
RCW 46.30.020, which lays out the insurance details, states, “Whenever a person presents a portable electronic device pursuant to this section, that person assumes all liability for any damage to the portable electronic device.”