Vehicle insurance bills closer to law in Mississippi

| Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Mississippi Senate voted on March 8 to approve a bill intended to boost enforcement of motor vehicle insurance laws by giving cities a cut of fines collected for violations.

The bill, which passed the state House in early February, is headed back to the House for final approval before heading to Gov. Haley Barbour.

Sponsored by Rep. Mark Formby, R-Picayune, the measure would allocate 25 percent of fines collected from drivers who cannot provide proof of vehicle insurance to cities and counties.

Drivers have been required to have liability insurance since 2000 but some cities are not strictly enforcing the law because they do not receive compensation, The Clarion-Ledger reported.

The violation is one of the only traffic fines that local agencies do not receive a portion of.

“We had asked them to do it without getting any part of it,” said Rep. Gary Chism, R-Columbus. “They are not enthusiastic about doing the insurance violations.”

About $5 million in fines are collected each year from those who drive without insurance, he told the newspaper. An estimated 38 percent of Mississippi drivers do not have liability policies.

Senators added a provision to the bill – HB1238 – that would require drivers to show proof of insurance when they get a vehicle inspected, were stopped at a roadblock or bought a new vehicle tag.

The Senate removed a requirement that the Department of Public Safety maintain a database of insured motorists.

The fine for the first-time offenders who fail to provide proof of insurance when pulled over is $1,000.

If they purchase insurance before their court date, the fine is $100. Under House and Senate versions of the bill, the fine would increase to $500.

Mississippi drivers who have vehicle insurance are the subjects of another legislative effort.

The Senate has signed off on a bill offered by Chism that would raise the minimum coverage requirement.

Current state law requires drivers to have $10,000 for bodily injury, $20,000 for personal injury and $5,000 for property damage.

“It’s woefully inadequate what we have now,” Chism told The Associated Press.

The bill proposes $25,000 for bodily injury, $50,000 for personal injury and $25,000 for property damage. It would apply only to policies issued on or after Jan. 1, 2006.

HB722 has been sent to the House for final approval before heading to Gov. Haley Barbour.

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