OAI: Different States, Different Auto Insurance Law Enforcement Tactics

March 23, 2012 (PRLEAP.COM) Business News
Despite the fact that driving without being able to prove financial responsibility is illegal everywhere in the U.S., drivers still face a patchwork approach to enforcement, a fact was reflected in two legislative actions taken this month in Idaho and Mississippi, according to Online Auto Insurance.

Legislation in Idaho and Mississippi proposing database-related methods of enforcement met two different ends this month, with the former bill passing almost unanimously and the latter stalling. The databases proposed in both bills allow verification of the status of auto insurance online and in real-time, meaning drivers who are pulled over by police and provide hard-copy proof of insurance would still be cited if their policy has lapsed with their insurer.

The Idaho legislation, HB 540, was approved by a 34-0-1 House vote on March 13 and is currently awaiting the signature of Gov. C.L "Butch" Otter. Lawmakers wrote in the bill that "the number of uninsured motorists on Idaho's roadways is a rising concern."

The most recent Mississippi bill, HB 480, was authored by Rep. Gary Chism (R-Columbus) and "died on calendar" on March 15.

A similar bill, then titled HB 620, made its way through the state Legislature last year but was vetoed by then-Gov. Haley Barbour, who said it was not cost-effective and placed too heavy a burden on Mississippi's Department of Public Safety.

Source: http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/documents/2011/pdf/veto/HB0620.pdf

Dozens of states use online verification systems, but the level of uninsured motorists in a state does not necessarily dictate its level of enforcement, as is seen in the fates of the two pieces of legislation. The Insurance Research Council estimated in 2009 that Idaho had the seventh lowest rate of uninsured motorists in the U.S., at about 8 percent. IRC also estimated that Mississippi had the highest rate of uninsured drivers in the U.S., at about 28 percent, meaning about 1 out of every 4 drivers in Mississippi is driving without proper coverage. The nationwide rate of uninsured drivers in 2009 was estimated to be about 14.3 percent. 

In Idaho, uninsured motorists face a $75 fine for first-time offenses and up to $1,000 for subsequent offenses occurring within five years.

Estimates from state officials place the initial cost of its verification database at $150,000 and $50,000 each year after it is set up, with a launch planned for January 2014.

For more on this and other coverage issues, visit http://www.onlineautoinsurance.com/ to get access to resources and state-by-state comparison of rates.