An SR-22 is a form that an insurance company is required to send monthly to the BMV on behalf of certain driver's to verify the driver is maintaining insurance coverage. An SR-22 filing is not required for all drivers. It is only required of drivers after they get into certain kinds of trouble. Examples include, but are not limited to being caught driving without insurance and being caught driving under the influence. If there's no history of trouble, drivers in Ohio are let loose with licenses on good faith that they honor the promise they make at the BMV to comply with Ohio's laws regarding financial responsibility. Once a driver's license has been suspended, however, the state no longer takes a person at his or her word that he or she will comply with the financial responsibility law. At that point, the state requires that proof of financial responsibility actually be shown (not just promised) in order to get a license reinstated. There is more than one way to comply with this financial responsibility law, but most people comply by purchasing insurance.
When shopping for insurance, keep in mind that an insurance agent does not necessarily know that an SR-22 filing is required unless a client specifically asks for one. If the driver does not own a vehicle, the driver needs to request a "non-owner's policy". It is important to note that this type of policy is for liability only. It's also important to remember that liability-only policies only cover damage to anything that the driver hits with the car being driven and never the car itself. Even if driving someone else's car, the car itself will only be covered if the owner of that car has full coverage. If the person with a suspended license owns a vehicle, remember that insurance must be kept on a vehicle whether it's being driven or not. (See article on Ohio's Random Selection program for enforcing financial responsibility.)
Insurance companies don’t do all this extra paperwork out of the goodness of their collective hearts, either. They usually charge a filing fee and they may even increase the overall rate for that driver. Sometimes insurance companies call the policies themselves that are obtained for this purpose "SR-22 policies". Though they do go hand in hand, technically the policy and the SR-22 filing are actually two separate things.
Even though insurance can (and must) be obtained before a license is reinstated, it is important to understand that an insurance policy generally will not cover any accidents until the driver's license is once again valid. This means that the driver should not drive at all - not even to the BMV - until insurance is obtained AND the license has been reinstated. The BMV location that handles reinstatements in the Cleveland area is in Parma. Even though that's a haul for some, it's still worth catching a lift, taking public transportation, walking or doing whatever else it might take to get there legally. If pulled over on the way there, the trouble will just be compounded. Not only will that get the driver in more trouble with the BMV, but it's not fair to anyone that gets hit, either. (Remember, insurance only covers drivers who are driving with a valid license.) Another moral of this story is that all vehicle owners, in general, should never lend the vehicle for any reason to someone who does not have a valid driver's license! If ever in doubt, license status can easily be verified on the BMV's web site.
Click here for more info on Ohio financial responsibility laws.