Mississippi Lawmakers Try Again for Insurance Verification System

Mississippi uninsured estimatesMississippi legislators are taking another stab at establishing a statewide auto insurance database that would help the government identify uninsured drivers and issue citations for flouting the state’s financial responsibility laws.

According to the latest report from the Insurance Research Council (IRC), Mississippi has the biggest uninsured motorist problem in the nation. The IRC estimated that more than a quarter–28 percent–of the state’s drivers were on the road without Mississippi auto insurance in 2009. That’s nearly double the nationwide average for that year.

To combat the problem, lawmakers passed a bill last year to establish an online database that would have matched up registered cars with car insurance policy information. But Gov. Haley Barbour ultimately vetoed the legislation, saying that too little thought had been put into how much the system would cost and that the language of the bill put too much of a burden on the state Department of Public Safety.

The new bill, HB 480, is virtually the same bill as last year’s, except it addresses one of Barbour’s concerns by sharing the responsibility of running the system between the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Revenue.

If lawmakers pass the bill in its current form and Gov. Barbour finds that the new version sufficiently addresses his concerns, the following provisions would take effect:

  • Car owners would need to verify through the database that they are insured before being able to register their vehicles.
  • Police would be able to access the database 24-7 and could check a driver’s insured status when pulled over for another violation.
  • Information contained in the database would supersede any proof of insurance cards provided by the driver.
  • Motorists could have their license or registration suspended if they don’t respond to a written inquiry on coverage status, if there’s reason to believe that a car is uninsured or if they are cited for driving without coverage.
  • The penalties for driving uninsured would include a fine of between $300 and $500. (The current fine is $500.)

Last year’s bill passed the House on a 73-46 vote and passed the Senate on a 49-0 vote.

About John Pirro
John Pirro is a licensed fire and casualty insurance agent specializing in various aspects of the auto insurance industry. He worked in the auto body repair industry before taking a reporting position at Online Auto Insurance News.

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