Tougher insurance, license bill gets initial OK in Arizona Senate

| Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Arizona senators have approved a bill to crack down on illegal motorists who cause crashes in the state.

The Senate tentatively approved an effort on Feb. 24 requiring the immediate impounding of the vehicle of any motorist found at the scene of a traffic accident without auto insurance and a driver’s license.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Jim Waring, R-Phoenix, faces one more vote in the Senate before it goes to the House.

SB1420 would make a 30-day impoundment mandatory and impose a $500 mandatory fine for a lack of insurance, up from $250. Motorists would have to pay a $750 fine for the second offense within three years.

Currently, state law allows police officers to decide whether to impound a vehicle when a driver lacks insurance. Brian Livingston of the Arizona Police Association told The Arizona Republic officers routinely cite drivers without seizing the vehicle.

Vehicles are not impounded when a driver lacks a valid license.

Carrying insurance and a driver’s license won’t necessarily prevent accidents, supporters say, but it could help ensure that drivers take responsibility when a crash occurs.

Though carrying proof of insurance is required under Arizona law, the Arizona Automobile Association estimates that about 40 percent of drivers in the state may lack insurance. In 2004, there were 5.3 million vehicle registrations in the state.

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