Michigan mails out insurance fines

| 8/31/2004

Michigan officials are preparing for a flood of angry calls from drivers facing hefty fines for driving without proof of insurance.

Bills began going out Aug. 27 from the Michigan Treasury Department to 30,000 drivers who failed to take advantage of a 60-day window to prove they actually had insurance at the time of their ticket.

They’ll have to shell out $300 over the next two years.

The higher fines took effect Oct. 1, under Michigan’s new driver responsibility law penalizing “bad drivers” and raising state revenue. The law targets drivers with seven or more points on their license or serious violations such as drunken driving and driving without insurance.

The fees could raise more than $124 million, The Saginaw News reported.

But after getting an earful from angry constituents who simply couldn’t find their proof during traffic stops, lawmakers this spring gave drivers a reprieve.

The Legislature amended the law to give ticketed drivers 60 days to go to court and prove they had insurance when they were pulled over between Oct. 1 and April 30. The window of opportunity ended June 30.

State officials will start refunding payments next month to 5,000 drivers who paid the $300 fee and later showed proof of insurance.

The rest have a month to pay the fines, or the state will suspend their driver’s licenses.

Also, drivers ticketed after May 1 who produce proof of insurance prior to their court date will have their penalties waived. They will still owe a $25 administrative fee.

But for those without proof, “bad driver” fees rose to $400 over two years.