Randy Mitchell Special Correspondent
Lawmakers are attempting to put a dent in the amount of people who drive without insurance.
Though a new law, House Bill 1792, officially takes effect today, law enforcement will not enforce it until Jan. 1, 2014, after a period of time to implement rules and procedures. The law is aimed at getting more motorists insured and keeping those who aren’t insured off the road.
According to the Oklahoma Senate’s Web site, “The new law gives law enforcement the authority to remove the tag from an uninsured vehicle and replace it with a temporary sticker (tag) that would be good for ten days,” the site read.
During the 10-day period, the driver would have minimum insurance coverage. Once the driver pays a mandatory $125 administrative fee, plus fees for the temporary insurance, and provides proof of insurance, the tag would be returned.
Rick Farmer, deputy commissioner for the Oklahoma Insurance Department, said that once issued the temporary tag, the motorist would be charged a $10 to $15 fee, per day for the temporary insurance. That cost would be added to the $125 administrative fee and would also have to be paid before the tag is returned. In addition to these costs, the uninsured motorist would also have to pay a traffic fine (usually $250) in the county where the fine is issued, plus court costs. The payment of the county fines and fees does not have to be paid prior to the return of the tag.
Currently, a person who drives without insurance in the state of Oklahoma is committing a misdemeanor crime and is subject to arrest but is usually given a costly ticket while their car is impounded.
Pontotoc County Sheriff John Christian said after the officer removes the tag and issues the temporary tag/insurance, the driver would be then be able to drive away.
“This gives an uninsured motorist the opportunity to get liability insurance,” he said.
Christian warned that although this can apply to unisured motorists, if they are also breaking a different law, such as driving with a suspended license, or driving without a valid license, they will still be arrested.
Under the new law, if the offender fails to get insured and pay the administrative fees within the 10-day period, he or she would then be subject to arrest and having the vehicle impounded anyway. The offender would then be subject to the administrative fees, plus all fines and fees associated with arrest.
Sen. Corey Brooks and Rep. Mike Christian, R-Oklahoma City, who co-authored House Bill 1792, said the law targeting uninsured motorists should help to decrease the number of people who drive without auto insurance.
“One in four drivers in our state is uninsured,” Sen. Brooks, R-Washington, said. “That means higher premiums for drivers who obey the law, so the rest of us are paying the price. If you are hit by an uninsured driver, you can be left holding the bag for even more. The whole idea behind this new law is to make sure that happens less often in our state.”
HB 1792 is based on similar measures in Louisiana and South Carolina, according to the website.
“Before each state adopted the temporary sticker law, the two states had uninsured motorist rates of about 30 percent. Now, Louisiana has a rate of 12 to 13 percent, and South Carolina’s is just eight to nine percent.”
Rep. Christian said that as a retired state trooper he knows “first-hand that uninsured drivers are a big problem for our state,” he said. “Not only does it result in higher rates for everyone else, but it costs the state about $9 million in lost revenues that could be used for public safety, education and better roads. Getting more drivers to comply with the law will benefit all of us.”