Okla. Congress Split on Easing Conditions for Insurance Checks

The state Congress in Oklahoma is split on legislation that would allow police to check vehicles they suspect don’t have the insurance coverage required by law through a state database.

The measure, HB 2525, passed the Senate by a 29-8 vote on April 24. It had failed that same day by an 8-36 vote before being reconsidered.

The version of the bill ultimately passed by senators amended the proposal’s language, removing a “probable cause” clause within the legislation and allowing police to check the presence of a valid policy on a vehicle through the database at any time.

But representatives in the state House rejected senators’ amended version on April 30, calling for a conference between the state House and Senate. The conference is currently assigned to the House Committee on Public Safety, Judiciary and Military Affairs.

Supporters say HB 2525 would make use of the online database that has existed for years and allow authorities and state officials to instantly verify that a motorist has the proper coverage in place.

“My constituents have made it clear: They want the uninsured vehicles off of the road,” Rep. Steve Martin (R-Nowata) said in a statement. “[N]ow more vehicles will be cited or impounded without the need for the driver to break other laws at the same time.”

State authorities currently cannot stop a car and issue a citation for lacking an insurance policy “based solely on noncompliance with the online verification system,” according to a legislative summary. They must first have a driver pulled over with the intent to issue a separate citation before checking on coverage status.

Martin, who authored the bill, said that current law ties the hands of the authorities “because the knowledge that a vehicle does not appear to comply with the law is not considered a ‘probable cause for a stop.’”

“The law enforcement officer has to allow the vehicle to proceed while knowing there is a very high probability that it is uninsured,” he said.

Given the costly penalties, uninsured motorists should compare auto insurance quotes online or through an agent to get the minimum amount of coverage to avoid expensive encounters with the authorities. If the bill passes, the need for insurance will be heightened as police get wider discretion in issuing tickets.

The total cost of a citation for driving without coverage in Oklahoma, including court costs and fees, is $211.50, according to the summary, which also stated the potential for a revenue increase from an anticipated rise in citations, should the legislation become law.

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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