Insurance law finally may be enforced

Insurance law finally may be enforced

April 29th, 2015 in Opinion Free Press

Tennessee state capitol

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

The Tennessee General Assembly was forced to pass a bill last week to enforce a law.

Something's wrong with that picture, but read on.

Even before last week, automobile insurance was required for every driver in the state. But, according to a 2014 study by the Insurance Research Council cited by legislative staff, about one-fifth of drivers in the state don't have it.

Chances are, you've probably been hit by one of them -- and you or your insurance company had to pay for repairs to your car.

Now the fix is in, a fix that would put in place a system in which insurance would be verified with annual tag renewal, and some people don't like it.

The bill, assuming it gets Gov. Bill Haslam's signature, would become law on July 1.

The rub is that when drivers attempt to renew their tag, no tag will be issued if the insurance can't be verified.

Staff research accompanying the bill indicates about 60 percent of uninsured drivers then will buy insurance. That's good. The other 40 percent won't be able to get it or keep it. That's bad.

Of that 40 percent, about half "will not be able to acquire or maintain adequate insurance and will not be able to renew." The other half, according to the research, fall into a gray area. They might simply sign up to get their renewal and then let it lapse.

Research for the bill indicates that minimum liability insurance is $300 annually.

Meanwhile, a special Verizon deal offers an iPhone 5 for 99 cents with a two-year agreement for $224.88. If you can afford the luxury of a cellphone, you can afford auto insurance. The cost with tax for Big Mac meals for a family of four at McDonald's is around $25. Twelve of those equal around $300. If you can afford the luxury to treat the family to fast food 12 times in a year, you can afford auto insurance.

In House discussion last week, one representative noted that 46 of the 50 states have a similar program.

However, one House naysayer felt those who cannot afford insurance "will not be able to have a car under the new law" and effectively would be forced to "sit at home and draw welfare 'cause they can't get to work."

The law, of course, doesn't prevent people from buying cars. Nor does it prevent them from getting a ride with a friend, riding the bus, riding a bicycle or walking to work. It only causes them to prioritize their purchases.

If they can afford a car, they should be able to afford the insurance to cover it. That was the law before last week's bill was passed, after all.

Today, if you are stopped and don't have insurance, the officer writes a ticket, and the maximum fine is $100. Most uninsured drivers are willing to take that chance.

The new law would command a $25 "coverage failure fee" if an uninsured auto is detected, assumably during a traffic stop. If proof of insurance is not provided within 30 days, another $100 fine is added. The bill prices out the maximum general fine at $300, though the state Department of Commerce and Insurance can seek a special "civil penalty" of up to $250 per day of uninsured driving in some situations. It is not clear what those situations would be.

Counties also would have the ability to tack on a $25 fee if a motorist signs up for insurance to get their auto tag renewed, then cancels it or lets it lapse.

People won't stop driving in the threat of a fine or the lack of a renewal sticker. They'll roll the dice and hope they don't get caught. But if 60 percent of uninsured drivers -- perhaps 663,300 people -- do purchase insurance, that'll be a whole lot less out of pocket money that responsible drivers (or their insurance companies) will have to fork over.

It's time a law already on the books is enforced.

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Chattanooga Times Free Press Comments Policy

The Chattanooga Times Free Press web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Times Free Press web sites and any content on the Times Free Press web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Times Free Press, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Times Free Press websites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Chattanooga Times Free Press
400 East 11th Street
Chattanooga, TN 37403
Phone: 423-757-6315
Email: webeditor@timesfreepress.com