Crackdown on uninsured drivers in Texas is delayed

| 7/19/2006

A planned crackdown on uninsured drivers in Texas has been sidelined.

State officials opted to delay a program to verify whether vehicle owners have auto insurance. As signed into law a year ago, the Texas Department of Insurance, in consultation with other agencies, is to establish a verification program to check for insurance.

The state has put the program on hold for one year while it tries to figure out a way to manage 15 million drivers with their insurers and avoid ticketing, or even arresting, drivers because of bad information, The Dallas Morning News reported.

The insurance industry estimates that Texas drivers shell out about $900 million annually to protect themselves against uninsured drivers.

The program allows law enforcement officials, vehicle inspection stations and others to instantly verify whether drivers have at least the minimum coverage required under state law. The verification would come through either a central database or a Web site.

While the departments of insurance, transportation and public safety work on setting up the program, Texas drivers will continue to pay a $1 fee in their license renewals to pay for the program, The Associated Press reported.

State Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, who authored the bill to create the program, said he is frustrated the program hasn’t been put in place yet. But he said he understands it’s more important to make sure the program isn’t a detriment to law-abiding drivers.