ID Bill Could Affect Access to NC Auto Insurance [Updated]

Matricula ConsularThe North Carolina House of Representatives has given the go-ahead to a bill that could limit foreign nationals’ access to car insurance.

[This story was updated on 3/31 to reflect votes on the legislation made since the story's initial publication on 3/25]

Current state law allows non-U.S. citizens to use consular identification cards as a means for getting basic state amenities, such as driving privileges, that require legally accepted forms of I.D. In addition, the consular IDs make it possible for non-citizens to have access to car insurance with no drivers license.

But the bill, which received a favorable vote from the House on Wednesday, would make the consular cards unacceptable forms of identification and proof or residency. This would in effect cut off non-U.S. citizens’ access to driving privileges and insurance coverage in North Carolina.

Consular identification cards are issued by foreign governments to help identify their citizens when they are outside their home countries. Since the early 2000s, the existence of the cards have sparked policy debates in the United States at both federal and state levels out of concern that they are not reliable and could be used to create fraudulent identities.

The federal government has yet to develop a stance on how state and local governments should treat the cards.

The measure still has to be approved by the Senate and signed by the governor. It did not pass the House with an overwhelming majority. The final vote was 66-50, and a proposed amendment to allow for the acceptance of consular cards for the purpose of purchasing auto insurance coverage was rejected.

And similar debates over non-U.S. citizens’ access to driving and insurance privileges have been playing out farther West, with most of them failing.

In Utah earlier this month, a measure to end the state’s practice of issuing driving-privilege cards to non-U.S. citizens was gutted and replaced with a tamer measure that would only make the documentation process for issuing the cards more rigorous.

And in New Mexico, the government allows non-citizens to get regular state-issued driver’s licenses. A group of legislators introduced a bill earlier in the legislative session that would have ended that practice, but it, too, was stripped of its basic provisions.

The argument for issuing non-citizens legal motoring privileges and access to coverage is basically that restricting such access would not necessarily keep these individuals off the roads. Instead, there is the potential that most would simpy drive unlicensed and uninsured.

Such a scenario could push up the amount of insured U.S. citizens being left having to pay for their own medical bills and auto damage following an accident with an uninsured motorist.

This point is especially pertinent to New Mexico, where it has been estimated that nearly 1 in 3 drivers lacks proper insurance.

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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