Vehicle insurance card -- don't leave home without it

News-DemocratMay 13, 2014 

Q. In Illinois, there is mandatory insurance you must have if you drive. Is the insurance on the person or the vehicle? The insurance company will tell you that I need to know if the vehicle is insured, not the individual. Can you clear this up?

-- R.D., of Collinsville

A. There's no need to let this question drive you crazy, because the answer is relatively simple: In very basic terms, Illinois requires you to carry a certain amount of insurance that covers pretty much everything except damage to your own car.

Here are the specifics, according to the Illinois Department of Insurance:

First, in the event you cause an accident, your policy must cover injuries or deaths suffered by pedestrians or occupants of another vehicle. Currently, the law requires a minimum of $20,000 per person per accident and $40,000 total per accident.

You also must carry at least $15,000 in coverage to pay for property damage you cause, including another person's vehicle, fences, buildings, utility poles, signs and trees.

You must realize, of course, that if you hit someone's new Ferrari or cause anything more than minor injuries, those policy minimums won't go very far. You then can be sued in court for the rest. That's why many carry hundreds of thousands or even millions in liability coverage to sleep easy.

Finally, Illinois law requires you to buy uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage. This will pay for your own injuries if your car is involved in a hit-and-run accident or is hit by an at-fault driver who has no insurance. Minimum coverage is also $20,000 per person or $40,000 per accident, although, again, you may want much more.

However, if you do buy more than the minimum, Illinois law also requires you to buy underinsured motorist injury insurance. This will pay the difference between your own underinsured injury limits and the liability limits of the at-fault driver.

So, as I said, the state's mandatory insurance law requires minimum coverage on everything except your own car. Illinois does not require such coverage, although a car dealer likely will make you buy it if you're still paying off a loan. However, if your car is ready for the salvage yard, the extra expense of collision and comprehensive coverage may not be worth it.

Remember, too, if you are convicted of driving without at least the required minimum insurance coverages, your license plates can be suspended and you can be fined a minimum of $500. First-time offenders will have to pay another $100 and show proof of insurance to get their plates back; repeat offenders will have to wait four months.

If you still have questions, call the mandatory insurance division of the secretary of state's office at 217-524-4946.

Q. Why do TV stations show their station logo all the time? If people are watching, they know what channel it is.

-- Irene, of Swansea

A. You're preaching to the choir here, Irene, because this is one of my pet peeves. You're trying to become fully immersed in a crime drama or a story of the supernatural and there's this annoying NBC peacock or CBS eyeball or whatever constantly staring you in the face, reminding you that it's only a TV show.

(Even worse, you'll be in the middle of a CSI murder investigation and on pops a jolly reminder to watch the next "Mike & Molly.")

Unfortunately, there's a good reason for these logos, which officially are called "digital on-screen graphics" -- or DOGS for short. As you might guess, it involves money.

Decades ago, TV viewers had no way to record a show. You saw it once and had to wait for summer reruns if you missed it. But once the VCR became popular, people could record as many shows and movies as they pleased. And guess what that led to? They began selling them, thus launching the new crime of video piracy.

To try to prevent this, German TV stations in the early 1980s began adding those DOGs (or "bugs" or "watermarks") to their broadcasts. By doing so, they could prove that a movie or TV show someone sold was actually stolen off their airwaves rather than a legitimate copy produced by those who owned the rights to it.

Since then, the practice has spread to TV stations around the world, including the United States, which saw the big four networks adopt the policy in the fall of 1993. Now, 20 years later, with the growing market in TV videos, they're likely here to stay.

Today's trivia

What are the only two radio stations whose call letters spell out the name of the cities in which they're licensed?

Answer to Tuesday's trivia: In 1912, 26-year-old George S. Patton, the future legendary Army general, finished fifth at the Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, after competing in the first modern pentathlon. He was third in athletics, fourth in fencing, sixth in equestrian, seventh in swimming and 21st in shooting. He was the only non-Swede among the top seven.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 618-239-2465.

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