GRACE PERIOD FOR RENEWING YOUR DRIVER’S LICENSE WITH THE BMV DOESN’T NECESSARILY APPLY TO YOUR AUTO INSURANCE

On Wednesday, March 18, 2020, Ohio’s Bureau of Motor Vehicle offices closed in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Governor DeWine recommended that police agencies give drivers who were unable to renew their licenses an extended “grace period” and not issue tickets for operating with an invalid license during this period.

I expect that most police departments will agree with this grace period and drivers with technically expired licenses should feel relatively confident that they will not face criminal charges on this.

But if you are one of the drivers with an expired license that cannot currently be renewed, I would not get behind the wheel until you have absolute confirmation from your automobile insurance carrier that your coverage is in effect if you are driving on an expired license. Many carriers exclude drivers who have no license, a revoked license or even an expired license.   

In Smith v. Safe Auto Insurance Co., 2008 Ohio 5806, Ohio’s Sixth District Court of Appeals unanimously upheld Safe Auto’s “unlicensed driver exclusion” of insurance coverage, applying it to situations in which the driver had allowed his license to expire only a few days before an accident. The fact that he was well within the statutory grace period in which to renew his license with the BMV did nothing to extend his own automobile insurance.

What should you do if your license expired on your birthday and you cannot renew it until the BMV reopens? DON’T DRIVE! At the very least, call your auto insurance agent and get assurances that they will cover you despite the fact that your license is expired. Otherwise, if you are in an accident, regardless of fault, you and your auto may not be covered.


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