OAI: Car Insurance Bill Highlights Oklahoma Uninsured-Driver Problem

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Lawmaker behind legislation says it will make much-needed dent in state’s uninsured rate.

Legislators in Oklahoma are pushing a bill that would allow police to use an online database to verify coverage on cars when they suspect the driver doesn’t have a valid policy, an effort that highlights the need for coverage in a state where almost 1 out of every 4 motorists is uninsured, according to Online Auto Insurance.

“[M]any people have told me that they have suffered one or more losses at the hands of negligent uninsured drivers,” said Rep. Steve Martin (R-Nowata), the legislation’s author, in a statement.

Beyond personal anecdotes of constituents, Martin said he was alarmed at the rate showing how much car insurance is lacking from roadways in Oklahoma, where 24 percent of drivers don’t have proper coverage, according to the Insurance Research Council (IRC).

Oklahoma had the fourth-highest rate of uninsured drivers in the U.S. in 2009, said the IRC.

HB 2525 would attempt to bring down that rate by allowing police wider latitude in determining which cars they verify coverage for and how citations are issued; uninsured drivers, Martin said, will likely fall in line behind a law allowing stronger enforcement.

“[F]or the uninsured drivers who wreak so much havoc on the rest of us, it creates a greater incentive to obtain isurance coverage,” he said.

Tennessee, which according to IRC rankings had the third-highest rate of uninsured drivers in 2009, is currently considering legislation to set up a database. It passed the state Senate last week by a 32-0 vote.

But if the situation in Oklahoma shows anything, implementing a verification database and enforcing its purpose are two distinctly different efforts.

Oklahoma’s database was created in 2008 to alert authorities about cars shown in the system as lacking proper coverage. Currently, however, authorities are not permitted to make traffic stops of motorists simply because they have checked the database and found the driver to not have coverage.

“At this time, the hands of the trooper, sheriff, or police officer are tied because the knowledge that a vehicle does not appear to comply with the law is not considered a ‘probable cause for a stop,’” Martin said. “Therefore, the law enforcement officer has to allow the vehicle to proceed while knowing there is a very high probability that it is uninsured.”

HB 2525 is currently in the state House after representatives rejected a Senate amendment removing “probable cause” language that would allow police to verify presence of valid coverage at any time. Lawmakers called for a conference on April 30 between the state House and Senate to resolve differences over the legislation.

Source: http://www.oklegislature.gov/

For more on this and related insurance issues, head to http://www.onlineautoinsurance.com/quotes/how-much-car-insurance-costs.htm for access to an easy-to-use quote-comparison generator and informative resource pages.

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