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Lawmakers want tougher penalties for drivers without insurance

BACKGROUND

In nearly every state in America, drivers are required to purchase liability coverage in the event that they damage someone else’s car or property, or in the event that they hurt the driver. The Wisconsin Insurance Alliance traditionally opposed this type of coverage requirement because they were concerned that it would affect car insurance rates. For many years, Wisconsin and New Hampshire were the only two states that didn’t require this. However, in 2009, Governor Jim Doyle passed an auto insurance mandate with higher minimum coverage levels was approved. Then, in 2011, the newly elected governor Scott Walker repealed the higher coverage minimums while leaving the insurance mandate in place.

DRIVERS WITHOUT INSURANCE

Right now, about 12% of Wisconsin drivers don’t have insurance. Although this percentage is slightly better than the national average, it is significant enough to warrant attention. If someone is struck by an uninsured motorist, the costs to the victim can be devastating. When uninsured drivers are stopped by police, they only get cited for not having proof of their insurance. They might not even get a fine! Or, if they do, it would be well under $100. Unfortunately, uninsured drivers increase rates for responsible consumers whose insuring agency ends up paying for extra visits to the doctor, emergency room, or car repair shop. Joe Sanfelippo, chairman of the Assembly Health Committee, explained, “People are making the determination that rather than spending $600 or $700 a year for insurance, I’ll just risk it.”

NEW INSURANCE PROPOSAL

Joe Sanfelippo, working with the state insurer’s lobby created a proposal that would provide greater incentive to hold insurance. Anyone stopped by an officer will be required to show the police or court that they have valid insurance if they want to avoid being fined. They also want to establish a monitoring system for the drivers who don’t show insurance.

The penalties for not holding insurance would be:

  • $100 fine plus some additional surcharges (1st offense)
  • $250-750 (2nd offense)
  • $250-2,500 (3rd offense)
  • Up to $2,500 for uninsured drivers who seriously injure someone
  • Up to $7,500 for uninsured drivers that kill someone

There is currently a lot of discussion about this proposed bill, and whether it is the best way to handle the issue. After all, it’s challenging to come up with a solution to an issue where people are likely making a decision not to buy insurance because of the cost. Even so, it’s dangerous to yourself and other people on the roads to drive without insurance. That’s why this is such a big deal.