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Paul Grimaldi
Paul Grimaldi R.I. Department of Revenue View bio

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MoneyGeek Staff

Rhode Island is the smallest state in the country, but it’s near the head of the pack in one unfortunate category. Nearly one out of five drivers on Rhode Island roads lack any sort of car insurance, one of the highest rates in the country. Rhode Island road trips tend to be short and sweet, but residents should still know insurance laws and other rules of the road.

Rhode Island Vehicle Insurance Requirements

Summary

High rates of uninsured drivers go hand in hand with high poverty rates. Perhaps not surprisingly, Rhode Island has the highest poverty rate in New England. More than 14.3 percent of the state’s population were living in poverty at the last available count, according to the U.S. Census. And people are less likely to pay for car insurance if it’s a choice between that and keeping the lights on or buying groceries, according to insurance commissioners who oppose mandatory auto insurance.

Who Needs Vehicle Insurance in Rhode Island?

If you’re living in Rhode Island and plan to drive in the state, you’ll need at least the minimum levels of liability insurance.

Proof of Insurance

Rhode Island drivers must show proof of insurance when getting a driver’s license or registering a vehicle at the DMV. You also have to carry your insurance card or a photocopy in your car at all times, so you can show it after an accident or if a police officer asks for it.

Minimum Liability Insurance Requirements

Rhode Island requires mandatory liability insurance in these amounts:

  • $25,000 per injured individual
  • $50,000 for all injuries per accident.
  • $25,000 per accident for property damage

Insurance companies have to offer policies to protect against uninsured and underinsured drivers. This covers your personal injuries and vehicle damage if the at-fault driver has no insurance (or the crash is a hit-and-run). In a state with a high rate of uninsured motorists, this coverage may be worth considering.

Alternatives to Insurance

Rhode Island drivers with extra money lying around can skip insurance, but they’ll have to deposit $75,000 per vehicle with the DMV for a security bond or cash deposit to cover any future accidents.

High-risk drivers who can’t get insurance through the normal means can get an alternative coverage through the Rhode Island Automobile Insurance Plan for high-risk drivers.

What Happens If You Drive Without Car Insurance in Rhode Island?

If you are caught driving without car insurance, you may be penalized with:

  • Fines of $500 to $5,000
  • A three-month suspension of your vehicle license and registration. The suspension time doubles for each subsequent offense and can also include a year in jail.

Thanks to a new state-wide initiative, you don’t need to be pulled over to be caught without insurance. An online insurance verification system lets the DMV and law enforcement confirm coverage instantly, says Paul Grimaldi, the Department of Transportation’s public information officer. “We instituted the verification system less than six months ago and don’t have enough data yet to see if it’s having a meaningful impact or not,” he said.

How Much Vehicle Insurance Do You Need?

Choosing the right coverage depends on the value of your vehicle, along with your driver’s record and assets. Because Rhode Island has such a high rate of uninsured motorists, you may want to consider buying uninsured motorist coverage, for example.

What Percentage of Drivers in
Rhode Island Lack Vehicle Insurance?
17% National Average: 12.6 %

Consumer and insurance experts recommend getting $100,000 worth of liability coverage for each injured person, and $300,000 or more for each accident.

The state’s Department of Insurance Regulation also recommends shopping around to compare rates.

For more on common types of insurance and what’s best for you, see the MoneyGeek guide to car insurance.

Car Insurance and Special Groups

Teen Drivers in Rhode Island

Insurance rates for teen drivers are never cheap, but Rhode Island teens may be eligible for auto insurance discounts based on good grades and a clean driving record. In some cases, it may be less costly to buy and insure a safe used car for a teen rather than add another driver to the family policy.

Rhode Island Teen Drivers: The Impact on Your Car Insurance

Median annual price change for families with a teen driver on their policy:

$1,934 increase This is a difference of 107%.
Comparison of Premium Ranges
25th - 75th Percentile Median
Watch Your Speedometer

Average annual premium increase if a teen gets a speeding ticket while driving 11-15 mph over the speed limit:

Male teen

$718

Speedometer
Female teen

$609

Rhode Island Discounts: How Much Teens Save

Impact on annual premium with Good Student and Defensive Driving discounts:

$286 saved

Auto Insurance Premiums from Rhode Island Insurance Providers

Policy cost vary more than you may think, so shop around. Check out the annual average premiums for a married couple with a 16-year-old teen driver in Rhode Island:

Insurance Provider Min MEDIAN MAX
Allstate $1,433 $3,484 $12,473
Progressive $2,452 $4,028 $9,440
Amica Mutual $2,492 $4,281 $10,515
Nationwide $2,880 $4,450 $10,346
GEICO $2,259 $4,479 $12,309

How Your Teen's Car Can Affect Your Rhode Island Auto Insurance Premium

Insurers consider sports cars a more risky choice for teens than sedans and minivans -- something reflected in annual premium rates.

Average premium for two 2014
Mustang GTs

$5,622

Average premium for two 2008
Town and Country Limiteds

$3,633

Annual benefit of minivans:

$1,989 saved This is 35% less expensive.
Premium Comparison for Two Adults + 16 Year Old
25th - 75th Percentile Median

College Students in Rhode Island

Out-of-state college students with a valid license do not need a Rhode Island license to drive in the state while attending school. All out-of-state students should inform their insurance company if an insured vehicle will be in another state for a prolonged period of time.

While there are no mandated insurance discounts for Rhode Island college students, some companies may offer a break based on grade-point average or maintaining a good driving record. Rhode Island places the burden of financial responsibility on the vehicle owner, so think twice before loaning a car to a college friend.

Do College Drivers Have Lower Premiums in RI?

Median annual premium change with a college student vs. high school driver

$729 decrease This is a decrease of 17%.
Comparison of Premium Ranges
25th - 75th Percentile Median

How a College Student Affects Your Rhode Island Rates

Each year, scrutinize your policy before it renews to see whether you could get a better deal. Here are the average premiums for a married couple with a 19-year-old college student in Rhode Island.

Provider Min MEDIAN MAX
Progressive $1,808 $2,878 $6,524
GEICO $1,616 $3,201 $7,843
Allstate $1,323 $3,123 $10,701
Amica Mutual $1,777 $3,402 $8,946
Nationwide $2,696 $4,025 $9,144

Rhode Island College Students: Distance Discount

You may see a slight break in your family’s premium if your student lives 150+ miles away from home.

Average premium for a 19-year-old male
  • $4,045 at home
  • $3,471 at school
  • $574 in savings
Average premium for a 19-year-old female
  • $3,481 at home
  • $3,033 at school
  • $448 in savings

How Car Choice Can Lead to Savings in Rhode Island

If your college student drives a sports car, your premiums will likely be higher than if he or she drives a sedan or minivan.

2014 Mustang GTs (2)

$4,491

2008 Town and Country Limited minivans (2)

$2,901

Annual benefit of minivans

$1,590 saved This is 35% less expensive.
Premium Comparison for Two Adults + College Driver
25th - 75th Percentile Median

Military Drivers in Rhode Island

Military families and veterans living in Rhode Island will need car insurance just like everybody else to register their vehicle with the DMV. But unlike everybody else, automatic discounts are available to vets and military members. Whether you’re looking at a specialty carrier who sells insurance only to military members, or a larger company that offers a military discount, it pays to compare rates by shopping around. If you expect to be deployed and won’t be using your car for some time, ask potential insurance companies if you can suspend coverage and pause premiums while you’re gone.

Rhode Island, which has about 3,500 active-duty military personnel living in the state and 71,966 veterans, offers an online guide to buying insurance. If you are stationed in Rhode Island, you are required to renew your registration before it expires, even if you are out-of-state at the time.

Rhode Island Service Members:
How Vehicle Choice Affects Your Premium

Rollover crashes are more common among SUVs and pickups, according to the Insurance Information Institute, but an older model SUV still affects your premium less than a recent model sports car.

Military Drivers: How Premium Ranges Differ by Driver Age and Vehicle
25-Year-Old Driver
50-Year-Old Driver
25th - 75th Percentile Median

Age-Based Savings for Rhode Island
Service Members

Median auto insurance
for service members:

$1,490
Male (25 yrs)$1,663
Male (50 yrs)$1,467
$196 savings
Female (25 yrs)$1,609
Female (50 yrs)$1,437
$172 savings

Compare Average Premiums Available to Rhode Island Military Personnel

When you're in the market for auto insurance, it pays to do some side-by-side comparisons. Check out the average annual rates you can get in Rhode Island.

Premium Comparison for a Military Driver
25th - 75th Percentile Median

Seniors in Rhode Island

Although there are no laws in Rhode Island requiring auto insurance discounts for seniors, the state’s Department of Insurance Regulation recommends shopping around; many insurance companies give discounts to older drivers with a good driving record. Completing a safe driving course, for instance, could knock up to 10 percent off the insurance rate for drivers 55 and older.

Undocumented Workers in Rhode Island

For now, undocumented immigrants in Rhode Island aren’t allowed to get a driver’s license in Rhode Island, a perquisite for car insurance. A proposal to allow undocumented immigrants to get a driver’s license is under review in the Rhode Island legislature. Requirements would include proof of residency and auto insurance, as well as paying state taxes for at least two years.

Young immigrants who qualify under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program can apply for a license with proof of insurance. The deferred action program allows immigrants to apply for a driver’s license if they’ve been in the country at least five years and but arrived before turning 16, among other things.

Ridesharing Insurance: Are You Covered?

Uber and other ridesharing services are legal in Rhode Island and subject to regulations which include mandatory insurance coverage for the company’s contracted drivers.

If you are a ridesharing driver, check with your insurance agent to make sure you’re covered. Personal auto policies don’t generally cover “driving for hire,” and some ridesharing companies don’t pay for collision and comprehensive coverage, which protects your car in the event of an accident.

Car Accidents: How to File a Claim

In Rhode Island, there are more than 40,000 motor vehicle crashes reported annually, according to the state’s DMV. Here are the first steps to take after an accident:

  • Call the police. In Rhode Island, law enforcement officers are required to file an accident report on any crash that causes injuries, death or property damage greater than $1,500, according to the DMV.
  • Exchange insurance information with all involved drivers and get contact information from witnesses.
  • Insurance companies advise that you don’t admit fault in an accident. The investigating police officers and insurance investigators will determine that.
  • Call the insurance company or agent as soon as possible to report an accident. The company will contact the police department directly for the accident reports.

Driver Safety: How Does Rhode Island Rank?

Rhode Island is one of the safest places in the country to drive. In fact, the fatality rate here is 40 percent lower than the national average, according to data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

Rhode Island Driver Safety Ranking

16th in the U.S.
About Our Data

The driver safety table shows the different safety factors that contribute to your state's overall safety rank (in the green box). The overall safety ranking and the National Ranking column scores in each category (including crash fatality rates) are from safest to most dangerous, with 1st being the safest and 51st the least safe.

How did we create the safety rankings?

We created a traffic safety ranking of all US states plus the District of Columbia by combining data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. We looked at fatality rates by distance traveled as well as by population and gave more weight to behaviors that were riskier and preventable (i.e., drunk driving, not using a seat belt), as well as to accidents that involved more than one party (i.e., multi-vehicle).

Driver Safety Profile Number of Fatalities Fatality Rate

The fatality rate is the rate per one billion vehicle miles traveled, except for pedestrian and bicyclist fatality measures, which are per measured per a population of 100,000.

Ranking
(National)

Rankings are in order of safest to least safe. A state with the lowest fatality rate would be the safest, and thus ranked #1.

Drunk Driving-Related Fatalities 25 3.18 24th
Speeding-Related Fatalities 17 2.19 11th
Passenger Vehicle Unrestrained Fatalities 19 2.44 15th
Unhelmeted Motorcycle Fatalities 6 0.77 32nd
Multiple Vehicle Fatalities 23 2.96 3rd
Pedestrian Fatalities 14 1.33 29th
Bicyclist Fatalities 3 0.29 43rd
Total Vehicle Fatalities 65 8.36 8th

Sources: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Rhode Island: Protecting You from Injury on the Road

The Ocean State has a “good” green light rating from Advocates for Highway and Road Safety, meaning it has a high number of optimal road safety laws. Among other things, the state enforces mandatory seat belt laws and follow federal guidelines on car safety seats for children.

Grimaldi says the state’s highway safety office has ramped up efforts to crack down on drunk driving, texting and driving and violations of seatbelt laws. He notes that at least half the people killed on Rhode Island roads while not wearing a seatbelt would probably have survived if they had been buckled up.

Safe Driving Laws – Rhode Island

  Requirement State Law Details
Mandatory seat belts All vehicle occupants must wear seat belts.
Child passenger safety Children under 8 must ride in an approved seat.
Driving under the influence (DUI) Blood alcohol content of O.08 is the legal limit. Fines of up to $500 and a year in jail for first conviction; penalties increase for subsequent convictions.
Ignition interlock after DUI Partial At judge’s discretion from first conviction.
Talking on cell or texting while driving Texting while driving is prohibited. Teen drivers may not use cell phones.
Protections for young drivers Graduated license system based on age. Must maintain clean record to advance through each level.
Motorcycle helmet law Partial Required of first-time riders for one year, all passengers and anyone under 21.
Bicycle helmet law Partial Required for riders 15 and younger.

Sources: Governors Highway Safety Association and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Car Insurance Resources for Rhode Island Residents

Division of Motor Vehicles Rhode Island

Get information on licensing, car insurance and downloadable forms you can complete to save time before visiting a DMV office.

Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation

Insurance company complaint form for consumers.

Rhode Island Highway Safety

Road rules and educational safety programs for state drivers.

State of Rhode Island Highway Safety Annual Report

Statistics and analysis of vehicular accidents statewide.

SafeRoads/Rhode Island

An annual report on Rhode Island traffic safety laws by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a coalition of consumer, public health and insurer groups.