Okla. Governor Considers Harsher Uninsured Penalties

Oklahoma may be getting a sharper set of tools to combat its especially high rate of uninsured drivers after a bill stiffening penalties for uninsured drivers was passed by the Legislature and now heads to the governor’s desk for final consideration.

The proposal, HB 1792, mandates license plate seizures for drivers found to be lacking a valid policy and charges them a fee to fund a temporary coverage plan for uninsured motorists.

The driver would have 10 business days after a citation is issued to obtain coverage. In the meantime, the driver would be covered under the Oklahoma Temporary Motorist Liability Plan created under HB 1792, which would be funded by extra fees charged to drivers caught on the road uninsured.

Drivers would also have to pay a daily rate for the temporary insurance plan, which will be determined on the first Monday of every December, according to HB 1792. The plan provides coverage at the required 25/50/25 minimum liability levels of car insurance in Oklahoma.

Motorists will have to pay a $125 fee to get their license plate back from a county sheriff’s office. That fee for license plate retrieval is in addition to the current $250 fine ticketed to an uninsured motorist.

Under the bill, the license plate fee is broken down as follows:
–$70 will go to the law enforcement agency citing the motorist.
–$25 will go to the pool of premiums for the temporary insurance plan.
–$10 will go to the temporary plan’s administrator.
–$20 will go to the county sheriff’s office to fund its storage of license plates.

A statewide association of county sheriffs will be created to administer the temporary plan.

The initial draft of the bill introduced to the Legislature contained a provision hiking the fine from $250 to $750 but didn’t make it into the final version.

HB 1792 passed the state House by an 85-6 vote on March 12 and Senate by a 26-15 vote Tuesday.

The bill’s provisions go into effect on Nov. 1 if approved by the governor.

Oklahoma Sounds Alarm on Uninsured Drivers

HB 1792 was introduced in a February press conference, where state lawmakers, administrators and traffic safety officials sounded an alarm about the state’s long-running problem with uninsured motorists.

The Insurance Research Council (IRC) says that nearly 1 out of every 4 drivers in Oklahoma were without coverage in 2009, the most recent year for which data is available. That ties the Sooner State with Tennessee for the third-highest rate in the U.S.

At the press conference, John Doak, commissioner for the Oklahoma Insurance Department, said that 560,000 vehicles in the state lacked proper coverage.

The problem now goes beyond roadway safety, he said, referring to a January OID report showing that the state loses $8.8 million a year in tax revenue from uninsured motorists.

“You take a 10-year snapshot of that, that’s $80 million that could be going to fund other good services,” said Doak, who highlighted the pensions of public safety officer as coffers that lose out because of coverage-less drivers.

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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