Ariz. Bill to Impound Uninsured Cars Fails by Slim Margin

Legislators in Arizona rejected a bill last week that would have allowed police to tow and impound uninsured cars.

The legislation, SB 1165, failed to pass with a 6-7 vote in the House Appropriations Committee, where its critics said it would yield unintended consequences for drivers improperly registered with the state’s Motor Vehicle Department. The Senate had given the bill its approval.

Under the proposal, authored by Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills), police stopping a car could reference the Motor Vehicle Department’s online database and tow it if it was found to lack a policy. Towing and storage fees would be charged to the vehicle’s owner.

Currently, drivers in Arizona are cited if unable to provide proof of insurance. Kavanagh said it was meant to combat abuse by drivers who buy minimal low cost auto insurance to register their vehicle but cancel the policy immediately afterwards. Those uninsured motorists wait until they are caught to buy another policy to provide it as proof to the state’s courts, Kavanagh said during the proposal’s March 22 vote.

But Kavanagh also said that the state-run database that police use to check coverage status had a 3 to 4 percent error rate, usually due to vehicle identification numbers that are incorrectly inputted.

Other lawmakers of the Arizona Legislature said the database’s error rate exposed too many innocent motorists. The Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of Arizona Inc. (IIABA) attended the legislative hearing and verified that more than 200,000 vehicles had mistaken VINs, opening up that number of drivers to having their cars towed and impounded wrongly. Incorrectly reported VINs could be attributed to simple error when insurance agents mistype VINs into the database, according to the IIABA.

Also according to the IIABA, the proposed law could lead to complaints from owners of vehicles later found to have correct insurance.

The penalties for being convicted of driving uninsured in Arizona are relatively harsh when compared with other states.

A first offense brings with it a fine of at least $500, along with suspension of license plates and registration for three months. For a second offense within three years, the minimum fine goes up to $750, and the suspension period doubles. For a third offense, the fine increases to $1,000, and license plates and registration are suspended for a full year.

About Charles Nguyen
Charles Nguyen is an enterprising journalist who reported for Patch.com and the Desert Dispatch and was the editor in chief of the Guardian (the twice-weekly newspaper at the University of California, San Diego) before coming to Online Auto Insurance News.

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