ST. LOUIS, Mo. ---  Approximately 80 million vehicle border crossings to Mexico occur every year, but unfortunately, some drivers may be leaving themselves vulnerable in the event of an accident.

"The danger comes when you assume that driving your car in Mexico is the same as driving in the United States," said Gary Kusumi, CEO and president of GMAC Insurance. "That simply isn't the case."

While crossing the border itself may be simple enough, many drivers are unaware that, in most instances, their U.S. auto insurance policy will not be valid if they experience an accident in Mexico. In addition, Mexican regulations have profound differences when it comes to handling vehicle accidents, thefts and other insurance-related claims.

"If not properly insured, drivers could be faced with a mountain of headaches, such as permanently losing their vehicle or even prolonged jail time," Kusumi said. "But these are preventable, if your assets are properly protected in advance."

GMAC Insurance and its Mexican insurance partners ABA Seguros and IIG offer the following five tips:

1. Re-insure yourself. The bottom line? If you plan on crossing the border in your own vehicle, you need to get Mexico auto insurance. In the event of an accident, you probably won't be covered by your regular U.S. policy. Check with your insurance company to see if it offers a pre-approved policy in Mexico or special add-ons that will cover you within a certain mileage from the border.

2. Know the law. In Mexico, a car accident is seen as a criminal offense, and until it is determined who is at fault and whether a penalty can be paid, you could be detained in jail. Check with your insurance company to make sure they will cover bail costs, so that you aren't detained longer than absolutely necessary.

3. Stay with your car. Mexican law states that a car must either be driven by the vehicle owner, or the owner must be in the vehicle. If the vehicle owner is not present, the car will be seized by customs and not returned under any circumstances. If your name is on the title, stay with the vehicle at all times.

4. Plan ahead. Know how long you will be in the country in advance. Give yourself some extra leeway in the event an accident occurs and an extended stay is unavoidable. In addition, register with the embassy, so they are aware of your presence and your whereabouts.

5. Study up. Read your new auto insurance policy in detail and note the responsibilities you have in case of an accident or loss. Keep a copy of the policy in the vehicle at all times, and always carry your driver's license, as well --- it's valid in Mexico.

GMAC Insurance works with approved Mexican insurance companies ABA Seguros and IIG to ensure that customers can purchase mandatory liability coverage and coverage for theft and damage to their vehicle in Mexico.