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In Our View: Prove Coverage

Feb 4, 2007

Auto liability insurance isnt optional, so providing proof to the state makes sense

We concede that auto insurance is expensive. But accidents and accident-related health care bills can bankrupt families and increase the price of insurance for consumers who play by the rules. Thats why we support a bill in the Legislature that would require people to show proof of auto insurance when they renew their vehicle license each year.

Its already against the law to drive uninsured. Requiring car owners to show that they carry auto liability insurance will cut down on incidents that leave people vulnerable and innocent parties picking up the tab.

House Bill 1046 was Introduced by Rep. Dean Takko, D-Longview, and has the support of several lawmakers, including Vancouver Reps. Jim Dunn, a Republican, and Democrat Jim Moeller. HB 1046s companion bill in the Senate is SB 5632.

The proposed law would be easy to implement. Insurance companies are required to send proof-of-insurance cards to policy holders. Policy holders would simply need to show those cards to the Washington State Department of Licensing when their vehicle license is up for renewal. A certificate of self-insurance or coverage under a liability bond would also be accepted. For those trying to trick the department with fraudulent documentation, the proposed law would make knowingly providing false information to the Department of Licensing a misdemeanor.

Of course, a lot of people live paycheck to paycheck, and insurance is a monthly bill that gets sacrificed in some households to keep groceries on the table and gas in the tank. But because of the burden uninsured motorists impose on others, the legislation is understandable and overdue.

The other option to not obtaining insurance is not driving. That might require changes in lifestyle or residence so a person can access mass transit. If it feels uncomfortable to coerce consumers to purchase insurance, remember that the reason for the coercion is because driving is an activity with considerable impact on others.

Citizens concerned about the impact this could have on the poor should get connected with nonprofits offering vehicle assistance and public transportation vouchers. This is a more appropriate solution than government assistance or new mandates on insurance companies to provide discounts for the poor (which will only translate into higher costs for middle-income families who also struggle to make ends meet).

According to a June 28, 2006, Insurance Journal article, Across the United States, if someone is injured in an auto accident, the chances are about one in seven that the at-fault driver is uninsured. According to a recent Insurance Research Council (IRC) study, the estimated percentage of uninsured motorists increased nationally from 12.7 percent in 1999 to 14.6 percent in 2004. The same study showed Washingtons uninsured motorist rate exceeds the national average at 18 percent. Various insurance companies estimate the situation is even worse. Takkos legislation can help change that.

(c) 2007 Columbian. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.

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