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Old 12-11-2007, 10:05 PM   #1
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New State Insurance Program

State to test program to stop uninsured drivers
08:12 AM CST on Monday, December 10, 2007
By TERRENCE STUTZ / The Dallas Morning News
tstutz@dallasnews.com

AUSTIN – Uninsured motorists will soon have a good reason to look over their shoulders when driving on Texas roads.

Beginning next month, the state will launch its long-delayed program to nab the estimated one in five Texas motorists who are violating the law by driving without insurance.

The insurance verification program will begin in Austin for two months and, if successful, will be expanded to Dallas and the rest of the state.

" Texas must continue to be relentless in getting an efficient system in place that penalizes and discourages people from not complying with the law," said state Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, who wrote the law that established the program while a member of the Senate in 2005.

Mr. Staples said the majority of drivers – who follow the law and have insurance – are being forced to pay larger premiums to subsidize those without insurance. The insurance industry estimates that Texas drivers shell out nearly $1 billion a year to protect themselves against those without coverage.

"We can't get this law in place soon enough," he added.

The program, funded with a $1 fee paid by Texans when renewing their vehicle registration each year, allows police officers, state troopers, vehicle inspection stations and others to instantly verify whether a motorist has the minimum insurance coverage required under state law. The verification will come through a central database set up with information provided by insurers.

About 20 to 25 percent of drivers – as many as 4 million Texans – are uninsured, according to state officials and the insurance industry. The state has roughly 16 million drivers.

Tom Vinger, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said officials wanted to test the program in one city for a couple of months to demonstrate that it will operate as intended.

"This is a huge undertaking, and we want the public to have confidence in the system," Mr. Vinger said. "The only way to do that is to have some field testing."

Although Texas has had a financial responsibility law requiring drivers to buy insurance for several years, enforcement has been difficult even though proof of insurance must be furnished to get a license renewal or safety inspection. The minimum policy must contain liability coverage to pay for injuries and damage caused by the driver.

Counterfeit cards

Millions of motorists skirt the law by using counterfeit proof-of-insurance cards or by obtaining a month's coverage of insurance to get an ID card, only to cancel the policy once they get their licenses renewed or their vehicles inspected.

To combat the problem locally, a growing number of cities, including several in North Texas , have started local programs to penalize uninsured drivers by towing their cars. Among those cities are Arlington , Dallas , DeSoto, Garland , Irving and Mesquite .

Under the state program, a driver pulled over for a traffic violation or involved in an accident will still be asked to produce proof of insurance. But the officer will also run the license plate of the vehicle through the insurance database to determine whether the driver really has insurance.

"We will check every person who is pulled over," Mr. Vinger noted.

A ticket will be issued to violators, subjecting them to a fine of $175 to $350 on the first offense. The fines jump on the second and third offenses – $350 to $1,000 – and the third offense can result in suspension of the driver's license and impoundment of the vehicle. Those who ignore the fines are subject to arrest.

Drivers caught without insurance also are put in the Texas Driver Responsibility Program, requiring them to pay an additional $250 a year to the state for three years.

One of the other lead state agencies in the effort is the Texas Department of Insurance, which has been working with the industry on the insurance verification program to reduce the chances for errors.

"Our tests so far indicate that we are matching 98.5 percent of insurance policies to the correct registered vehicles," said Melissa Burkhart, program coordinator at the insurance department. That is better than the original accuracy target.

"If everything goes as well as we expect [in Austin ], the program will be rolled out statewide a couple weeks later," she added.

HDI Solutions Inc., an Alabama-based firm that specializes in data management, was awarded a contract from the state about a year ago to set up the verification program. The company, which will partner with three other high-tech firms, will be paid $7 million over two years. HDI operates a similar program in Alabama .

Although the insurance checks will initially occur at traffic stops, they will be quickly expanded to annual vehicle registrations and, by next summer, to vehicle inspections. Some county tax collectors, who issue vehicle registration stickers, could be using the system as early as February.

Warnings

In addition, the state will contact drivers without insurance by mail, warning them of the consequences for not having insurance.

"All the pieces should be in place by the summer," Ms. Burkhart said.

Although the insurance verification law was passed in 2005, the program has been delayed as state officials and the insurance industry sought to make sure that mistakes would be minimal.

"The program has taken longer to get off the ground than had been anticipated, but if the initial pilot program proves to be accurate and can be implemented successfully statewide, the wait will have been worth it," said Mark Hanna of the Insurance Council of Texas, an industry group.

"The bottom line is Texans are tired of paying for the accidents and injuries caused by uninsured drivers."

Jerry Johns of Southwestern Insurance Information Service said the industry was skeptical about the effort because of problems with programs in other states – including erroneous ticketing of people who had insurance.

"But it is now the law, and we will work closely with TDI [the insurance department] and the vendor to make sure the program complies with the intent of the Legislature," he said.

A study conducted for the insurance and public safety departments indicated that in the 27 states that use similar insurance verification systems, the average percentage of uninsured motorists before the program was about 26 percent. After it was implemented, the number dropped to less than 10 percent.

"Based on these numbers and the estimated uninsured motorist rate in Texas of 20 percent, it is possible that there could be a 12 to 13-point reduction in the uninsured motorist rate in Texas ," the study said.

INSURANCE VERIFICATION: HOW IT WORKS

Uninsured drivers will be identified through a state database that will include information from insurance companies on all drivers who have policies on their vehicles. Drivers will be checked when they:

•Are stopped for a traffic violation by a law enforcement officer, who can run their license plate number though the database.

•Are involved in an accident.

•Obtain an annual vehicle inspection.

•Submit payment for a new vehicle registration sticker.

Also, the state plans to mail out warnings to drivers who are found to have no minimum liability insurance. Current minimum coverage limits are:

•$25,000 for injury or death of one person in an accident.

•$50,000 for injury or death of two or more persons.

•$25,000 for damage or destruction of property.


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Old 12-11-2007, 10:19 PM   #2
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I heard about this on the news. I can't believe 1 in 5 don't have insurance. me off. I hope they nail 'em. From those stats, I guess I should up my coverage to cover my when I get ran over.
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Old 12-11-2007, 10:20 PM   #3
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You would think that insurance rates would have been lowered/standardized when the original law passed requiring everybody to have insurance in the first place. I don't remember that happening. :dontknow:

So now that there is a way to enforce it, will it happen?

I don't know, just seems shady.
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Old 12-11-2007, 10:31 PM   #4
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http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcont...d.2c03cab.html

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Old 12-11-2007, 10:33 PM   #5
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Old 12-11-2007, 10:42 PM   #6
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Thank You Patrick for this !! I hope it goes w/ Zero torerance !! I got hit by someone w/o insc. F*&king sux i'm out 250.00 dect. & the F*&king cop that wrote the ticket told me he would show up ..he didn't so i'm out 250.00 F%^K everyone that does not have or get insc. & Tow their S#@t !!
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Old 12-11-2007, 10:49 PM   #7
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cool deal. thanks for posting this patrick.

let's hope this program works out for the best....in our behalf.
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Old 12-11-2007, 11:06 PM   #8
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Old 12-11-2007, 11:09 PM   #9
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I hope that goes into action statewide
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Old 12-11-2007, 11:22 PM   #10
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and if the insurance rates dont go down?
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Old 12-11-2007, 11:24 PM   #11
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and if the insurance rates dont go down?

Class action lawsuit(s)?
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Old 12-11-2007, 11:28 PM   #12
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For me, insurance going down is secondary to the people without it no longer getting away with it.
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Old 12-11-2007, 11:34 PM   #13
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I see the insurance company reaping all the benefits from this deal, in the end its still the people that been paying premiums that lose in the long run.
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Old 12-11-2007, 11:39 PM   #14
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For me, insurance going down is secondary to the people without it no longer getting away with it.
+1 at my/our age, ins. is pretty low already........
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Old 12-12-2007, 12:19 AM   #15
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cool deal. thanks for posting this patrick.

let's hope this program works out for the best....in our behalf.
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Old 12-12-2007, 01:16 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ArturoC View Post
You would think that insurance rates would have been lowered/standardized when the original law passed requiring everybody to have insurance in the first place. I don't remember that happening. :dontknow:

So now that there is a way to enforce it, will it happen?

I don't know, just seems shady.

I agree with this. But you know and I know insurance rates wont go down.. It's just another way for insurance companies to make more cash by reducing the amount of uninsured claims they have to pay on and the state to make some cash of there own.

"The insurance industry estimates that Texas drivers shell out nearly $1 billion a year to protect themselves against those without coverage. "
(now that this is in place will we have to shell out less?)


It would be 100% fantastic if it offered some kind of break on our bill but thats not mentioned in it at all. So really does it effect us with insurance? I mean if you have insurance you dont have to worry about others that dont. right? You could make the agrument YES it does matter. But does it really? I mean if everyone in Texas got insurance tomorrow do you think for one second the insurance company would come to you and take 5% off your bill a year? NO WAY! They would welcome the newly insured and all the rates would stay the same.

this bill = more money for insurance companies and the state without giving us any break on our insurance bill.. that simple. KEEP READING BEFORE YOU FLAME ME!

However in the end its $1 a year which is less then we spend on a bottle of water or a soda a DAY.. But where does it end? Sure its $1 now but next year they might increase it to $2 etc.. etc.. etc.. Just some things to think about.
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Old 12-12-2007, 01:22 AM   #17
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Old 12-12-2007, 12:54 PM   #18
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About freaggin time!

Get those a-holes off the streets!!!
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Old 12-12-2007, 12:56 PM   #19
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Quote:
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For me, insurance going down is secondary to the people without it no longer getting away with it.
+1....even I insure the old blue smurf in case some dipsh*t decides to take me out...or if I take them out for that matter
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Old 12-12-2007, 01:08 PM   #20
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ok so what about if you get pulled over for driving a friends car?

Example driving a drunk friend home from the bar......Does this law mean your still covered under the owners policy?


Dont get me wrong I like the idea but it seems like there are still questions and many ways for the "MAN" to screw us.....
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