New Towing Law Sets Scene for Uninsured Crackdown in Louisiana

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed a bill into law this week that institutes harsher penalties against uninsured drivers by permitting police to tow their vehicles on a first offense of driving without insurance.

Previously, authorities were only allowed to tow cars of drivers lacking insurance on second and subsequent offenses. HB 1053, which repeals that previous law, received Jindal’s approval on June 5.

Enforcement under the new law begins Aug. 1.

Rep. Ray Garafalo (R-Meraux), who sponsored legislation behind the law, said during debates and committee hearings in the state Legislature that he sought to “put the teeth back into the state’s compulsory coverage law” with the proposal.

Garafalo said statistics from the Louisiana State Police, which supported his bill, showed that, from July 2011 to March 2012, more than 17,000 citations were issued to drivers who could not provide proof of insurance on the spot during a traffic stop. In those cases, about 96 percent of the drivers who received citations were uninsured.

Of the 3.3 million registered vehicles in the state, about 869,000 lack coverage, amounting to “a full 26 percent,” according to Garafalo. Under previous law, authorities could tow the vehicles of repeat offenders but had no way of tracking how many times those offenders were cited for lacking coverage.

Now that the enforcement measure is finalized, uninsured motorists in Louisiana should be prompted to search for free auto insurance quotes to get protected and avoid stricter penalties under the new law.

“We need to do something to make sure that drivers obey the law,” Garafalo said during the House debate on his proposal in April. “This will bring up the rate of insured drivers for us and bring down insurance costs.”

That state House debate ended with an 82-7 vote for the bill on April 25. The bill passed the state Senate on May 24 with a 28-3 vote.

A provision within the law allows police to forgo towing first-time offenders if the vehicle contains elderly passengers or children or if towing the car creates “imminent danger to the public,” according to the bill.

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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