Alabama House Approves Proposal for Coverage-Verification System

Alabama uninsured motorist rateLawmakers moved one step closer Thursday to establishing an electronic database that would help government entities verify whether motorists in the state have valid Alabama auto insurance policies.

State legislators want to set up the verification system in order to more easily identify uninsured drivers and, ultimately, temper the state’s high rate of drivers who lack proper insurance coverage.

Alabama has been estimated to have one of the highest uninsured-motorist rates in the nation. The Insurance Research Council estimated that in 2007 about 26 percent of drivers lacked a policy. It was estimated that about 22 percent lacked coverage in 2009.

If the verification system is approved and established, law enforcement officials would be able to check in the field whether a driver’s proof of insurance card is valid or bogus.

The bill would also change the way the Department of Revenue issues inquiries on coverage status to residents. Inquiries on coverage status are currently sent out randomly, but they would be sent specifically to the owners of vehicles that appear to be uninsured.

Individuals who receive the inquiries are and would be required to respond by furnishing proof or providing a valid explanation of why this was within 30 days.

The proposal would also make insurance verification a necessary step in the process of registering or renewing registration on a vehicle. Current law merely requires a person registering an auto to sign a statement saying they are in fact in compliance with the compulsory coverage law.

The house advanced the proposal with an 83-2 vote. The senate already approved of the legislation unanimously at the beginning of March.

Some legislative tinkering still needs to be done before it heads to the governor’s desk to be signed into law. Changes were made to the legislative language while in the house, and a conference committee made up of representatives from each house now must agree on single version if it is to be sent to the governor’s desk.

A similar proposal was recently rejected by the governor of Mississippi.

Gov. Haley Barbour vetoed that bill on the grounds that there were logistical complications in the language of the bill and that there had not been enough consideration of the cost of the program. Mississippi’s 2009 uninsured-motorist rate was estimated to be even higher than Alabama’s, coming in at 28 percent.

The Alabama proposal, though, includes more due diligence than Mississippi’s failed verification-system bill. It would require the establishment of an advisory council that would decide the structure of the system, and the government would have a few years to put the plan into action.

About Ben Zitney
Benjamin Zitney has been covering the auto insurance industry for the past 2.5 years. Before coming to Online Auto Insurance News, he produced an extensive company history of the 30-year-old California Joint Powers Insurance Authority and worked at the Cal State Long Beach Daily Forty-Niner as a reporter, copy editor and news editor.

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