American Press, Lake Charles, Louisiana, on auto insurance law

June 10
American Press, Lake Charles, Louisiana, on auto insurance law:
Louisiana motorists might want to double check their wallets and vehicle’s glove compartment to ensure they can produce proof of automobile insurance.
State lawmakers passed a couple of measures in their recently concluded regular session that puts more teeth in the mandatory auto insurance law.
Drivers will be charged a minimum $75 fine if they are caught without proof of vehicle insurance. That fine would be assessed on top of any other fine administered by a court for driving violations.
“The intent of the bill was to try to discourage people from operating in an uninsured capacity,” said state Rep. Chris Broadwater.
Critics complain that the new fine will hit people who can’t afford Louisiana’s high car insurance rates. But they conveniently overlook that automobile insurance is mandatory in the state of Louisiana, and those who do not have it, regardless of their circumstances, are breaking the law. Those who don’t purchase automobile insurance also add to the premium costs of those motorists who do.
State Rep. Henry Burns, R-Haughton, said that he’s been told that 20 percent of Louisiana drivers do not have insurance coverage.
The new fine could raise as much as $53 million. The first $2 million of that revenue will be dedicated to an insurance verification system that law enforcement personnel can use in the field. The bulk of the rest of the money will be used to increase the pay scale for state troopers. The rest of the money will go to sheriffs and district attorney offices around the state.
A bill by Burns also requires that law officers making a traffic stop verify that the driver has automobile insurance if the agency has a computer for running such checks. An exception has been made for smaller law enforcement agencies that may not be tied into the computer system.
Burns’ bill passed both chambers of the state Legislature with nary an opposing vote. It now awaits Gov. Bobby Jindal’s signature to become law. Jindal has indicated he will sign the bill that sets the $75 minimum fine for being caught without proof of automobile insurance.
Clearly, more teeth had to be put into a law that may have been ignored by one in every five drivers in the state.

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