Oklahoma bill would track uninsured motorists

| Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Oklahoma House has approved a bill that would allow law enforcement officials in the state to instantly determine whether a vehicle has insurance.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Wright, R-Broken Arrow, would require insurance polices to include the vehicle identification number of the vehicle or vehicles covered by a policy for use in a state database.

According to news sources, Wright said the database would provide “a real-time indicator” for law enforcement officials to check insurance status every time a vehicle is pulled over.

Wright said the bill could lead to a dramatic reduction in the number of uninsured motorists traveling Oklahoma roads, which some officials think may account for three out of every 10 vehicles on the road.

Although Oklahoma drivers must offer proof of insurance at the time of registration, many cancel that coverage shortly after obtaining insurance. The bill – HB1351 – directs the state Department of Public Safety to establish a secure Web site maintaining a directory of vehicle identification numbers that will be accessible to insurance carriers and law enforcement for verification of coverage.

Supporters point to a similar law in place in Utah since 1995, which has been credited with dropping the rate of uninsured motorists from 23 percent to 9 percent in the state.

In Oklahoma, the database would cost more than $50,000 to get up and running, but Wright hopes it would end up saving Oklahomans on their insurance rates.

The measure has been forwarded to the Senate for consideration.

Another vehicle insurance bill recently passed from a House panel and has been forwarded to the full House.

Sponsored by Rep. Ron Peterson, R-Broken Arrow, uninsured motorists would be limited in how much they can collect after being involved in an auto accident.

HB1541 states that, if an uninsured motorist were involved in an accident, recovery would be limited to medical recovery damages, lost wages and property damages. No awards would be allowed for non-economic damages, known as “suffering.”

In a released statement, Peterson explained the measure is intended to prevent uninsured motorists from profiting from their criminal behavior.

“Currently, even though you have broken the law by not carrying auto insurance, you get to fully recover against somebody else that may be at fault in that accident,” said Peterson.

“Yet, if the uninsured is at fault, the recovery of the other party is limited because there is no insurance coverage. Typically, a lot of people who don’t have insurance don’t have any other assets to pay for those damages to the injured party.”

To Peterson, the bill is a fairness issue: “It enforces the golden rule in a small way, that you should provide for others as you would provide for yourself.”