John Roska: Have these with you when you drive

John Roska: Have these with you when you drive

Q: What are you supposed to have with you when you're driving? Do I have to have my license actually with me when I drive? Can't I just prove later that I have a license?

A: Illinois law says drivers must have two things when they drive: a driver's license and proof of insurance. If you have those, or can prove that you did, you're legal.

A driver's license — the thing with your picture that you carry in your wallet — proves your ability to drive. It therefore licenses you, as an individual driver. It has nothing to do with the vehicle you may be driving. It comes from the Illinois secretary of state.

Proof of insurance proves that you have the mandatory minimums of insurance coverage. It's usually a card, but can now be on a smartphone. Either way, it comes from your insurance company.

Fortunately, the laws that require you to carry your driver's license and insurance card also say it's OK if you can prove you left them at home.

For example, the law says a driver "shall have his (sic) driver's license or permit in his immediate possession at all times when operating a motor vehicle." So having a valid driver's license, but not with you, could get you ticketed.

But the law goes on to say that "no person charged with violating this section shall be convicted if he produces in court satisfactory evidence that a driver's license was theretofor issued to him and was valid at the time of his arrest. "

Going beyond the driver's license and proof of insurance that drivers are supposed to have, vehicles (not drivers) must have a certificate of title. But you shouldn't carry that in your car, unless you want to make it easy for thieves to sell your car.

A certificate of title proves who owns a car. It really belongs to the car, and follows that car to a new buyer. It doesn't license the car, or you. It's just a public record that proves ownership.

Certificates of title make car sales a lot easier, by providing reliable proof of who owns a car. Otherwise, buyers would just have to take the seller's word for it that they really owned the car they wanted to sell.

The secretary of state's "Rules of the Road" handbook goes a bit further than the above requirements and driver's licenses and proof of insurance. It says you should also carry your "vehicle registration ID card." That's the card that comes with your annual sticker for your license plates.

Strictly speaking, you're only required to carry that card only if your vehicle weighs more than 4 tons and holds more than 10 people. Even the biggest SUV isn't that big (yet), but having that registration card in your vehicle anyway may save you some hassle.

Otherwise, your license plates, and that annual sticker, are all the proof you need that you've properly registered your vehicle. That registration basically licenses your car and proves it's legal for it to be on the road.

John Roska is a lawyer with Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation. You can send your questions to The Law Q&A, 302 N. First St., Champaign, IL 61820. Questions may be edited for space.

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