New Jersey's uninsured drivers law to get overhaul

| 8/3/2004

A new state law in New Jersey permits police to confiscate vehicles from motorists caught driving without insurance.

Since the law took effect earlier this summer, enforcement has been spotty because Gov. James McGreevey has complained the rules are too tough and should be changed, the Star-Ledger reported.

The provision allows police to impound vehicles from motorists if they are unable to provide proof of insurance within 24 hours of being pulled over. It was written into the governor’s 2003 auto insurance reform law and took effect June 9.

But prior to the implementation date, a McGreevey-appointed task force concluded that uninsured motorists should be given a “reasonable” amount of time so they could go before a judge who would decide whether to seize the vehicle. Legislators are expected to amend the law this fall.

As a result, many law enforcement agencies are reluctant to enforce the provision now on the books.

William Cicchetti, chairman of the traffic safety committee for the New Jersey Chiefs of Police Association and chief of police in Washington Township, NJ, told the newspaper he is advising officials to avoid impounding vehicles until the law is changed. Instead, he recommends police write tickets that could cost uninsured drivers their licenses, a hefty fine and/or possible jail time.

Police chiefs also have balked at another provision that quadrupled fines for driving without insurance to $176 – up from $44. The task force has since recommended the fine be cut to $105.