Our nation's capital is also the gridlock capital of the country. It has been ranked the "Most Congested City" by the Urban Mobility Scorecard, with the average resident losing some 80 hours a year just to traffic delays. Add to that the fact that Washington, D.C. has some of the most expensive car insurance premiums in the country, and driving residents find themselves in a mess.
The good news is that D.C.'s traffic accident fatality rate is actually one of the lowest in the country. Read on to find D.C.'s secret - and what you need for car insurance in the Beltway.
D.C. Vehicle Insurance Requirements
Washington offers a unique hybrid of "No-Fault" and liability insurance options. In most No-Fault insurance systems, drivers must purchase Personal Injury Protection (PIP) to cover them in an accident, regardless of who is at fault. But in D.C., PIP is not mandatory. Drivers may choose to purchase this coverage and may decide whether or not to use it - or instead seek damages through the other party's liability insurance - after an accident.
If you choose to use your PIP protection, your ability to file a liability claim against the other party is limited. You are only entitled to file a liability claim with the other driver's insurance company if you have suffered serious, long-term injuries or if your medical costs are higher than the limits covered by your insurance.
Who Needs Vehicle Insurance in D.C.?
Everyone who drives a vehicle registered in D.C. must carry liability and uninsured motorist insurance. D.C. uses an electronic verification system to check vehicle registrations against insurance policies. If your insurance is canceled for any reason, you are required to turn your registration and plates in to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
According to the Insurance Research Council, an estimated 15.6 percent of drivers are uninsured in D.C.
Proof of Insurance
You are required to carry proof of insurance in your vehicle at all times. If the police stop you for any reason, you're required to show it. If you are unable to show proof of insurance, you will be fined.
D.C. law states that your proof of insurance must be a document issued by your insurance company that includes your insurance company name, policy number, the name of the policyholder, and the period the insurance covers.
Insurance companies operating in D.C. must notify the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) if a customer's policy is canceled. At that point, the DMV will send an insurance verification notice to the owner of the vehicle requesting proof of coverage.
Minimum Insurance Requirements in D.C.
Washington residents are required to carry liability and uninsured motorist coverage on their vehicles. Minimum coverage includes:
- Liability insurance for injuries: $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident
- Property damage liability: $10,000
- Uninsured motorist insurance: $25,000 per injury and $50,000 per accident
- Uninsured motorist property damage liability: $5,000 (with $200 deductible)
In addition, D.C. requires insurers to offer "No-Fault" Personal Injury Protection to all drivers. This coverage is optional.
What Happens If You Drive Without Car Insurance in D.C.?
If you are caught driving without insurance in D.C., your penalty will depend on whether you own the uninsured vehicle. It is illegal to drive an uninsured vehicle, and it is illegal to own an uninsured vehicle. There are separate penalties for each of these offenses.
For owning an uninsured registered vehicle:
$30 fine, 30-day license suspension, $98 reinstatement fee, and SR-22 requirement for three years (subsequent offenses demand steeper penalties).
For operating an uninsured registered vehicle:
All the penalties listed above, plus an additional $500 fine for first offense.
How Much Vehicle Insurance Do You Need?
The types of insurance and amount of coverage you need depend on your situation and assets, but most insurance experts recommend that you purchase more than the minimum liability insurance required by law.
D.C. Lack Vehicle Insurance? 15.6% National Average: 13 % (Source: Insurance Research Council - latest data, 2015)
"It pays to review your auto insurance coverage when it comes up for renewal to make sure your insurance is in step with your needs," says Michael Barry, vice president of media relations at the Insurance Information Institute. "For example, if your car is worth less than 10 times the premium, purchasing collision coverage may not be cost-effective. When this is the case, consider dropping collision coverage."
"Should you drop collision coverage, take the monies you would have paid for it, and put the proceeds into a savings account to save for a new car," Barry adds.
Teen Drivers in Washington DC
While D.C.'s gridlocked roads may be a nightmare for commuters, they have been commended for teen safety - mostly due to strict licensing requirements for teens and strong enforcement of traffic safety laws.
The capital's DMV even joined with private-sector companies to launch a Parents Supervised Driving Program. The program offers parents and guardians resources and a simple plan for them to help their teenagers learn to drive safely.
Of course, your child's safety is your primary concern, but next in line will be your insurance premiums. Prepare for a hike in your premium when you add your teenager to your car insurance policy. Ask your insurance agent about discounts. Many companies offer discounts for students who maintain at least a B average and teens who take a driver safety course.
The Difference a Teen Makes to Your Washington DC Car Insurance Policy
Median annual price change for families with a teen driver on their policy:$2,366 increase This is an increase of 140%.
Average annual premium increase if a teen gets a speeding ticket while driving 11 to 15 mph over the speed limit:
What Discounts Do Washington DC Teens Get?
Impact on annual premium with Good Student and Defensive Driving discounts:$380 saved
Compare Premiums from Washington DC Insurance Providers
Shop around for the policy that's right for you. Check out the annual average premiums for a married couple with a 16-year-old teen driver in Washington DC:
Will Your Washington DC Premiums Go Up With This Car?
Are sports cars a more risky choice for teens than sedans and minivans? Insurance experts say they are, and premium rates reflect that.
Average premium for two 2014
Average premium for two 2008
Town and Country Limiteds
Annual benefit of minivans:
College Students in Washington DC
If you have a child heading off to college, it pays to do some homework. If your child plans to take the car, research insurance rates in the college's location before deciding whether to keep him on your policy. Check in to discounts as well. Many companies offer a discount if your child will be attending school more than 100 miles from home and won't be taking the car. That way you can keep coverage for your child when he is visiting home and using the car without paying full price.
DC College Students vs. Teen Drivers
Median annual premium change with a college student vs. high school driver$1,222 decrease This is a decrease of 26%.
How Annual Premiums Compare for District of Columbia Insurers
Each year, review your policy before it renews to see whether you could get a better deal. Compare the average premiums, for example, for a married couple with a 19-year-old college student in the District of Columbia.
Distance Discount for District of Columbia College Students
You may see small savings in your family's premium if your student lives 150 miles+ away from home.
Average premium for a 19-year-old male
- $4,316 at home
- $3,416 at school
- $900 in savings
Average premium for a 19-year-old female
- $3,623 at home
- $2,998 at school
- $625 in savings
District of Columbia College Drivers: Mustangs vs. Minivans
Your college student driving a minivan will result in a lower premium than if he or she drives a sports car — a reflection of the lower risk to insurers.
2014 Mustang GTs (2)$4,833
2008 Town and Country Limited minivans (2)$2,778
Annual benefit of minivans
Military Drivers in Washington DC
Lots of DC residents are members of the Armed Forces. If you have a deployment coming up, you don't want to let your insurance lapse accidentally while you are away. The DC DMV requires you to maintain minimum liability and uninsured motorist coverage on your vehicle if it is registered. However, you may want to talk with your insurance provider about suspending optional coverage like collision insurance, especially if your car won't be used during your deployment.
If you are a veteran, ask your insurer about discounts for veterans. You are also eligible to receive a DC Veteran tag for your car. There is no registration fee if you are a disabled veteran. You must offer proof of military service and honorable discharge to qualify. Spouses may also be eligible for a Veteran tag.
Washington DC Service Members:
How the Vehicle You Buy Affects Your Premium
Rollover crashes are more common among SUVs and pickups, according to the Insurance Information Institute, but an older model SUV still has less impact on your premium than a recent model sports car.
Service Members: A Comparison of Premium Ranges by Driver Age and Vehicle
Age-Based Perks for Washington DC
Median auto insurance
for service members:
Compare Average Premiums Available to Washington DC Military Personnel
When looking for the best premium rates, it pays to do some comparison shopping. Check out the average annual rates you can get in Washington DC.
Seniors in Washington DC
If you are 55 or older, ask your insurance agent for a senior discount on your auto premium. Most insurance companies offer this discount for older drivers who pass a driver safety course. The discounts usually last three years.
Once you reach age 70, you will need a physician's letter when you renew your driver's license in D.C.
Undocumented Workers in Washington DC
Since May 2014, District of Columbia residents who do not have a social security number and cannot establish legal their legal presence in the United States can still get a driver's license (a prerequisite for car insurance). In D.C., it's known as a "Limited Purpose Driver License." This license is valid for eight years, but it cannot be used for federal identification purposes.
Ridesharing Insurance: Are You Covered?
If you plan to drive for a transportation network company (TNC) like Uber or Lyft, be sure you are fully covered by the company's insurance policy or your own. Most personal insurance policies will not cover commercial use of a vehicle.
In 2015, the District of Columbia passed legislation establishing insurance requirements for TNCs operating in the district. The legislation is similar to that passed in other states and requires that the TNC or the driver carry the following liability coverage:
When logged in to the app, but not carrying passengers:
- Bodily injury liability coverage of at least $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident
- Property damage liability coverage of at least $25,000 per accident
When carrying passengers:
- Primary liability coverage of $1 million per accident.
If you are a driver Make sure to ask your insurance agent whether you are fully covered and, if not, how you should adjust your policy.
Car Accidents: How to File a Claim
If you are involved in an accident in the District of Columbia, file an accident report with the police and notify your insurance agent immediately. Be sure to exchange insurance information with the other driver and get phone numbers and emails of any witnesses. Some experts also advise taking photos at the scene of the accident, if possible.
If you have purchased optional Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage, you have 60 days to decide whether or not you want to rely on your PIP insurance to cover your damages. If not, you can seek damages through the other party's liability insurance, or through your uninsured motorist coverage.
Driver Safety: How Does D.C. Rank?
The District of Columbia is known for having the worst drivers in the United States, and that translates into a high rate of collisions. Interestingly, it doesn't translate into a high rate of traffic fatalities; D.C. is in the top 20 states with the lowest rates of road deaths. It also has a low rate of drunk driving, speeding, and pedestrian fatalities, and it's the number one safest city for cyclists, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. All this propels D.C. into the top 10 safest states (and capital) for driving.
District of Columbia Driver Safety Ranking
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.
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||6||1.76||3rd|
|Passenger Vehicle Unrestrained Fatalities||0||0.00||1st|
|Unhelmeted Motorcycle Fatalities||0||0.00||1st|
|Multiple Vehicle Fatalities||7||1.98||1st|
|Total Vehicle Fatalities||20||5.67||1st|
Sources: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
D.C. Protecting You from Injury on the Road
The District of Columbia joins six other states in receiving the highest safety marks from Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, an alliance of consumer, medical, public health, and insurance groups. The alliance notes that D.C. is "significantly advanced" in terms of optimal road safety laws.
Safe Driving Laws - D.C.
|Mandatory seat belts||For all passengers, primary enforcement. This means a law enforcement officers can pull you over if they spot someone unbuckled|
|Child passenger safety||Child seat required for all kids under age 8|
|Driving under the influence (DUI)||1st DUI conviction: up to 90 days of license suspension, possible jail time of up to 90 days, and fines ($500+). Penalties increase for subsequent convictions; a second DUI, for example, may result in a year in jail and a fine of $2,500|
|Ignition interlock after DUI||Partial||Discretionary|
|Talking on cell or texting while driving||Hand-held and texting ban for all drivers. No cell phone use at all with learner's permit|
|Protections for young drivers||During intermediate stage, nighttime driving restrictions apply but vary depending on the time of year and day of the week. No passengers except family during first six months, limited to two passengers until age 18|
|Motorcycle helmet law||Universal helmet law|
|Bicycle helmet law||Partial||Mandatory for those under age 16|
Car Insurance Resources for D.C. Residents
Has information about licensing, registration and insurance requirements.
Provides information about car insurance laws and regulations in D.C.
The Department of Insurance prepared this chart comparing sample premium prices offered by major insurers in the city.
Offers resources for parents to help their teens learn to be safe and responsible drivers.
You can file a complaint about your insurance company here.