South Carolina database targets uninsured motorists

| 9/20/2004

Driving in South Carolina without insurance now is a little more difficult.

An electronic database designed to expose uninsured motorists went into effect last week as part of an effort to force those drivers – about one in four – to add coverage or get off the road, The Post and Courier reported.

The move is designed to snag motorists who try to skirt the system by taking out insurance just long enough to get a card showing they are covered, then canceling the policy.

As of Sept. 15, all insurance companies are required to begin electronically transferring names of canceled policyholders to the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Once the DMV receives the names, it immediately sends out notices to motorists telling them they are being fined $5 daily while uninsured, and could have their tags taken away and registration suspended if they don’t get covered within 45 days. Retaining registration would cost $200 with all fees and fines going to the department.

“We had a similar policy years ago, but it lacked the organization and enforcement and it just faded away,” state Rep. Bob Walker, R-Spartanburg, told the newspaper.

Walker sits on a seven-member working group aimed at setting up the database system for the 2-year-old legislation.

The legislation is being tweaked to close a loophole to further discourage motorists who cheat.

Under current law, insurance agents are required to submit canceled policyholders’ names only once a month to the DMV, meaning some offenders could slip through undetected for a few weeks. Proposed changes, expected for adoption when lawmakers convene in January for the next session, would make insurers comply on a daily basis.

Other changes planned include shortening the 45-day grace period to 20 business days, and up the punishment to include revoking drivers’ licenses.

The state’s system will run via the Internet, enabling insurance companies to connect with the agency without needing to pay for extra technology.