Bill targeting uninsured motorists sent to governor

March 25, 2011 10:27:00 AM

Garthia Elena Burnett -

 

Lawmakers are targeting the 28 percent of Mississippi motorists who are uninsured. 

 

Legislation making it tougher for uninsured drivers to remain on the highways and byways is on its way to the governor for final approval. 

 

House Bill 620 would establish a statewide computer database tracking whether or not vehicles are insured. 

 

"Instead of looking at you''re (insurance) card ... they''re going to be able to pull up your tag number and determine whether or not you have insurance on your car," explained Rep. Gary Chism, R-Columbus, who authored the bill with 57 co-authors. 

 

Uninsured motorists also would not be able to get a license plate. 

 

The bill imposes stiff penalties for driving without the minimum-required liability insurance -- license suspension and a fine of up to $500. 

 

"Twenty-eight percent of the folks in Mississippi don''t have liability insurance, and we''re hoping to cut it down to 8 to 10 by doing this," said Chism, who noted the 72 percent of drivers who have insurance end up turning to their own insurance company when they are in a collision with an uninsured motorist. 

 

And as far as people who say they can''t afford insurance, Chism begs to differ. 

 

"I bet almost every single one of those people who says they can''t afford it have cable TV and a cell phone, both of which cost more than (auto insurance), if you''re of age and have a good driving record," he said. "It costs about 300 a year for just liability insurance. That''s $25 a month. 

 

"This is just really going to put teeth in Mississippi''s financial responsibility law. We''ve had that on the books since 1954," he continued. 

 

State law requires at least coverage of at least $25,000 per individual for bodily injury ($50,000 per accident) and $25,000 in property damage. 

 

Currently, law enforcement only monitors drivers'' insurance if they have had a collision and caused property damage or bodily injury and were uninsured. Thereafter, uninsured drivers are required to get auto insurance and are monitored; their license is suspended if the insurance expires. 

 

One issue with only having cards to check for valid insurance is, the policy may have lapsed for non-payment, but the card may still have a valid date, Chism added.