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State Offers Auto Insurance Solution

Jan 26, 2007

By Sarah Elizabeth Villicana, The Porterville Recorder, Calif.

Jan. 27--A low-cost auto insurance program may be the answer for the estimated 15 percent of Tulare County motorists who are driving uninsured.

The California Low Cost Automobile Insurance Program is designed to provide low-income, good drivers with state-required liability coverage for less than $400 a year.

The program started as a pilot program in 1999 and is currently available in 16 counties; excluding Tulare.

State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner was at Tuesday's meeting of the Board of Supervisors in Visalia to assess the county's need for low-cost auto insurance.

Poizner said Tulare is one of six counties being considered in expansion of the program.

"State law requires that all drivers be insured," Poizner said. "More than 34,000 motorists in Tulare County are traveling the roadways without insurance."

Supervisor Connie Conway said the county was very much in need of a low-cost option for auto insurance and expressed her surprise that Tulare was not first on the state's list of eligible counties.

The Insurance Commission recently took his oath of office Jan. 8 and, with just two weeks on the job, was able to deflect the question of why Tulare County was not included in initial selections of eligible counties

"This is a crisis," Poizner said of the rate of uninsured drivers in the county. "While many Tulare drivers cannot afford insurance, they are placing themselves and fellow residents at risk when they drive."

The insurance program is monitored by the state with policies issued by California licensed insurance companies.

Visalia resident Lali Moheno was the only person to address Poizner during public comment on a low-cost insurance program for Tulare County.

Moheno thanked Poizner for visiting the county and asked if he would consider workers in the county who have had their driver's license suspended or revoked and cannot afford to pay the cost of penalties.

"I would like to see these people have an opportunity to fix their license problems," Moheno said.

Moheno did not forget the number of uninsured drivers who must drive to work but can not legally obtain a license.

"A large percentage are undocumented workers who cannot get a license because of the laws," Moheno said.

Poizner said the low-cost auto insurance program, if approved, would be available by March.

Maximum liability coverage for the basic policy is $3,000 for property damage for each accident; $10,000 bodily injury or death per person with a total of $20,000 per accident.

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To see more of The Porterville Recorder or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.portervillerecorder.com/.

Copyright (c) 2007, The Porterville Recorder, Calif.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.

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