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Sir/Ma'am, may I see your insurance card?

<i>Submitted photo</i> A St. Paul driver ended up in this ditch after taking out a traffic light at the highway bypass intersection by Moody's auto dealership. Police say he was intoxicated and violated a new state insurance law.

On a recent Sunday evening the 29-year-old St. Paul man said he was heading home from drinking at a Beldenville bar.

What he couldn't explain was how his northbound 1997 Jeep Cherokee veered right and toppled a traffic light at the Hwy. 29/65 bypass intersection.

The Jeep then swerved uncontrollably for another 100 yards before coming to a stop in the east highway's ditch.

The driver was later taken by ambulance to River Falls Area Hospital. Described as uncooperative, he was soon arrested for drunk driving.

When asked if he had auto insurance, the man refused to answer, saying he wanted his attorney.

A check of his Jeep's glove box showed an auto insurance card that expired in 2004.

Besides his nearly $800 drunk-driving citation, the man was given a $114 fine for operating a motor vehicle without insurance.

As of June 1, Wisconsin law requires state drivers to have and show proof of auto liability insurance.

River Falls Police Chief Roger Leque says his officers will ask any motorist detained for a traffic stop to show proof that they have such coverage.

Leque said police obviously won't pull anybody over for not having auto insurance, but they will routinely ask the insurance question of those stopped.

"The bottom line is that citizens will want to make sure they carry valid documentation in their vehicles that they have liability coverage," Leque said. "And they shouldn't count on getting a warning if they don't have it."

Read more on this story in the June 24 print edition of the River Falls Journal.