Concerns of law-abiding drivers should carry more weight than lawbreaking uninsured motorists

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: January 30, 2013
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IN 2011, Insure.com found Oklahoma's average auto insurance costs were third-highest among the 50 states. Oklahoma's weather played a role, but so did our high rate of uninsured drivers.

AAA Oklahoma spokesman Chuck Mai says as many as 30 percent of Oklahoma drivers are uninsured. The Oklahoma Department of Insurance has pegged the number at more than 500,000 and estimates that this reduces state premium tax collections by more than $8.8 million annually.

The biggest cost is borne by law-abiding citizens unlucky enough to be hit by uninsured drivers. Financially, those individuals are forced to pay for repairs and higher insurance rates to cover costs created by the negligence of others — while also dealing with the personal challenges accompanying an auto accident.

Two state lawmakers have filed bills targeting uninsured drivers. Sadly, getting either measure through the Legislature is far from a sure bet.

Rep. Steve Vaughan, R-Ponca City, wants to require police to seize a vehicle when someone is caught driving without insurance. Currently, state law allows seizure, but does not mandate it. Rep. Mike Christian, R-Oklahoma City, has filed a bill to allow police to stop a vehicle solely because of noncompliance with insurance law. Currently, police must first have another reason to stop a car before they can issue a citation for lack of insurance coverage.

In recent years, the state has shifted to an online instant verification system that allows police to run car tags and instantly learn if a vehicle is insured. However, if a driver is obeying all other laws, officers have to let the uninsured car continue down the road. This may enrage Oklahomans who make financial sacrifices to pay their own expensive auto insurance, but it apparently doesn't bother lawmakers enough.

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