Vehicle insurance bill gets approval of Mississippi governor

| 4/6/2005

Gov. Haley Barbour signed a bill April 4 raising the minimum coverage requirement for vehicle insurance in Mississippi.

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,” Rep. Gary Chism, R-Columbus, recently told The Associated Press.

The new law, previously HB722, requires drivers to have $25,000 for bodily injury, $50,000 for personal injury and $25,000 for property damage. It will apply only to policies issued on or after Jan. 1, 2006.

A provision added by Senate lawmakers is intended to boost enforcement of motor vehicle insurance laws by giving Mississippi towns a cut of fines collected for failure to provide proof of insurance.

It allocates 25 percent of fines collected from drivers 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,” Chism told the newspaper. “They are not enthusiastic about doing the insurance violations.”

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

Drivers who fail to show proof of insurance could be ticketed by law enforcement. Officers can only ask for proof of insurance if a motorist is stopped for another infraction, such as speeding.

The fine for the first-time offenders who fail to provide proof of insurance when pulled over is $1,000. The new law drops the fine to $500.

If they purchase insurance before their court date, the fine is $100. If an offender can prove they had insurance at the time of ticketing, the fine would be removed.