MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Broward Sheriff’s deputies and officers from more than 70 police agencies in the tri-county area took part in a one day crackdown on drivers with phony proof of insurance on Tuesday.

It was the first time ever that the Broward Sheriff’s Office, Miami Police Department, and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office joined forces in the effort.

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The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) has reported a disturbing rise in the use of fake auto insurance cards by drivers in South Florida. Since it is often difficult for a police officer to verify that the proof of insurance presented to them during a traffic stop or crash is legitimate, drivers who use fake ones basically have a ‘get out of jail free’ card.

That wasn’t’ the case Tuesday when representatives from several insurance companies staffed several command centers to assist the police officers and deputies in verifying insurance cards.

“It’s bad enough to be involved in a vehicle crash, but then to have to deal with the other driver not having insurance makes it worse,” said Sheriff Al Lamberti. “This is the third year we have teamed up with the insurance industry to protect motorists against uninsured drivers.”

It is illegal to drive in the state of Florida without insurance or with a fake insurance card.  Florida law states that any person who presents a fraudulent proof of motor vehicle insurance commits a third-degree felony.

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In Broward County, three people were arrested and ten drivers were found to not be carrying insurance. BSO Deputy Marty Chastain took a call from Miami where it was determined a driver’s insurance had been canceled in 1999!

“The lady on the phone asked me if I was kidding,” Deputy Chastain said. “I said, no, I’m looking at the screen.”

Drivers with fake insurance cards affect all drivers on the road because in the event of a crash with an uninsured motorist, the cost of repairs can be eventually passed on to the driver with valid insurance.  Insurance rates keep escalating every year to recover losses due to uninsured drivers.

“We all pay because somebody pays for damage,” said Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti. “Good citizens pay for the bad ones.”

South Florida has one of the highest rates of uninsured motorists in the country and drivers pay some of the highest premiums in the nation.

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“Insurance is largely a law of numbers,” said Fred Burkhardt of the National Insurance Crime Bureau. “Which means more people in the poll, the less your premium. Fewer people means you cover the differences.”