And then, when they crash into the side of the DPS building after retaking their driving test, actually NOT let them have their license back.
I certainly would avoid the student driver mobile.
State to test program to stop uninsured drivers
11:52 PM CST on Sunday, December 9, 2007
By TERRENCE STUTZ / The Dallas Morning News
AUSTIN � Uninsured motorists will soon have a good reason to look over their shoulders when driving on Texas roads.
Beginning next month, the state will launch its long-delayed program to nab the estimated one in five Texas motorists who are violating the law by driving without insurance.
The insurance verification program will begin in Austin for two months and, if successful, will be expanded to Dallas and the rest of the state.
"Texas must continue to be relentless in getting an efficient system in place that penalizes and discourages people from not complying with the law," said state Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, who wrote the law that established the program while a member of the Senate in 2005.
Mr. Staples said the majority of drivers � who follow the law and have insurance � are being forced to pay larger premiums to subsidize those without insurance. The insurance industry estimates that Texas drivers shell out nearly $1 billion a year to protect themselves against those without coverage.
"We can't get this law in place soon enough," he added.
The program, funded with a $1 fee paid by Texans when renewing their vehicle registration each year, allows police officers, state troopers, vehicle inspection stations and others to instantly verify whether a motorist has the minimum insurance coverage required under state law. The verification will come through a central database set up with information provided by insurers.
About 20 to 25 percent of drivers � as many as 4 million Texans � are uninsured, according to state officials and the insurance industry. The state has roughly 16 million drivers.
Tom Vinger, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said officials wanted to test the program in one city for a couple of months to demonstrate that it will operate as intended.
"This is a huge undertaking, and we want the public to have confidence in the system," Mr. Vinger said. "The only way to do that is to have some field testing."
Although Texas has had a financial responsibility law requiring drivers to buy insurance for several years, enforcement has been difficult even though proof of insurance must be furnished to get a license renewal or safety inspection. The minimum policy must contain liability coverage to pay for injuries and damage caused by the driver.
Millions of motorists skirt the law by using counterfeit proof-of-insurance cards or by obtaining a month's coverage of insurance to get an ID card, only to cancel the policy once they get their licenses renewed or their vehicles inspected.
To combat the problem locally, a growing number of cities, including several in North Texas, have started local programs to penalize uninsured drivers by towing their cars. Among those cities are Arlington, Dallas, DeSoto, Garland, Irving and Mesquite.
Under the state program, a driver pulled over for a traffic violation or involved in an accident will still be asked to produce proof of insurance. But the officer will also run the license plate of the vehicle through the insurance database to determine whether the driver really has insurance.
"We will check every person who is pulled over," Mr. Vinger noted.
A ticket will be issued to violators, subjecting them to a fine of $175 to $350 on the first offense. The fines jump on the second and third offenses � $350 to $1,000 � and the third offense can result in suspension of the driver's license and impoundment of the vehicle. Those who ignore the fines are subject to arrest.
Drivers caught without insurance also are put in the Texas Driver Responsibility Program, requiring them to pay an additional $250 a year to the state for three years.
One of the other lead state agencies in the effort is the Texas Department of Insurance, which has been working with the industry on the insurance verification program to reduce the chances for errors.
"Our tests so far indicate that we are matching 98.5 percent of insurance policies to the correct registered vehicles," said Melissa Burkhart, program coordinator at the insurance department. That is better than the original accuracy target.
"If everything goes as well as we expect [in Austin], the program will be rolled out statewide a couple weeks later," she added.
HDI Solutions Inc., an Alabama-based firm that specializes in data management, was awarded a contract from the state about a year ago to set up the verification program. The company, which will partner with three other high-tech firms, will be paid $7 million over two years. HDI operates a similar program in Alabama.
Although the insurance checks will initially occur at traffic stops, they will be quickly expanded to annual vehicle registrations and, by next summer, to vehicle inspections. Some county tax collectors, who issue vehicle registration stickers, could be using the system as early as February.
In addition, the state will contact drivers without insurance by mail, warning them of the consequences for not having insurance.
"All the pieces should be in place by the summer," Ms. Burkhart said.
Although the insurance verification law was passed in 2005, the program has been delayed as state officials and the insurance industry sought to make sure that mistakes would be minimal.
"The program has taken longer to get off the ground than had been anticipated, but if the initial pilot program proves to be accurate and can be implemented successfully statewide, the wait will have been worth it," said Mark Hanna of the Insurance Council of Texas, an industry group.
"The bottom line is Texans are tired of paying for the accidents and injuries caused by uninsured drivers."
Jerry Johns of Southwestern Insurance Information Service said the industry was skeptical about the effort because of problems with programs in other states � including erroneous ticketing of people who had insurance.
"But it is now the law, and we will work closely with TDI [the insurance department] and the vendor to make sure the program complies with the intent of the Legislature," he said.
A study conducted for the insurance and public safety departments indicated that in the 27 states that use similar insurance verification systems, the average percentage of uninsured motorists before the program was about 26 percent. After it was implemented, the number dropped to less than 10 percent.
"Based on these numbers and the estimated uninsured motorist rate in Texas of 20 percent, it is possible that there could be a 12 to 13-point reduction in the uninsured motorist rate in Texas," the study said.
So what happens to the other 240,000 plus people that are incorrectly matched? Do they immediately get ticketed and their cars towed or what?
Perhaps they could make sure they have proof of insurance in the car. Like the rest of the innocent people.
It seems like a legitmate concern.
Having proof might not help if the officer suspects it is fraudulent.
The article mentions that part of the motivation for this system is the widespread use of fake "proof".
Adding higher fines won't help much. If they had the money for the fine they would probably have the money for insurance. They are already taking a multi-thousand dollar chance by driving without insurance so whats a few hundred more?
I detest the idea that insurance is what is important and lack of it is a criminal offense, and that people who cannot afford it are required to buy it from private companies. If that insurance quoted number is correct, and we pay a billion dollars each year for uninsureds, could that money not better be used to require us to pay someone besides a private company who is making billions off of us--while the poor who can't afford it will still not be able to afford it, even if they are continually charged more surcharges, fines, and costs that they also will not be able to afford.
Excuse my anti-insurance ranting, but I hate being a collection agency for a multi-billion dollar industry.
Well, your rant has legs only if we all start from the notion that everyone has a constitutional right to drive a car. I sure don't want the government handling insurance. The government hasn't done so well with the other financial duties: social security, internal revenue, etc.
I'm just hoping once this plan gets going that the insurance companies will take the cue to reduce rates on uninsured motorist coverage. After all, if this is effective in reducing the amount of uninsured motorists, they will have fewer claims on those policies, right? Heck, maybe they'll send us some money back.
Study Questions Va. Driver Fees, Raising the Possibility of Repeal
By Anita Kumar and Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, December 6, 2007
RICHMOND, Dec. 5 -- Virginia may have to issue more than 300,000 license suspensions to drivers over the next two years for failure to pay the state's abusive-driving fees, according to a government report that may hasten calls for the General Assembly and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) to eliminate them.
In the first broad review of the fees since they took effect July 1, state auditors found that they have not affected traffic safety and might not raise as much money as expected. The report describes confusion over which offenses can trigger the fees and indicates that some police officers are choosing not to write tickets for violations that carry the fees.
Auditors working for the General Assembly said they are uncertain about the long-term impacts the fees will have on safety and state revenue, but their report raises questions about whether legislators and Kaine made the right decision in establishing them.
Although he aggressively defended the fees over the summer, Kaine said he is open to getting rid of them. "We heard overwhelmingly people don't like it," Kaine said. "It should at least be changed, maybe eliminated."
The abusive-driver fees, which range from $750 to $3,000 for serious offenses including drunken or reckless driving, were supported by Kaine and members of both parties as a way to avoid raising taxes to pay for $65 million a year in road and transit improvements. But since being implemented, they have generated considerable public opposition.
"I'm concerned that it was a huge public policy mistake," said Sen. R. Edward Houck (D-Spotsylvania), a member of the Joint Commission on Transportation Accountability, which sought the report. Houck and other lawmakers have introduced legislation to repeal or modify the fees.
The report, prepared by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, paints a picture of a fee system that is almost out of control, with descriptions of some police officers unwilling to write tickets because they are sympathetic to motorists or wary of too much time in court.
Although there was an increase in arrests for driving under the influence, there was an 11 percent decline in arrests for reckless driving, one of the less-serious offenses that trigger the fees.
The report also shows that thousands of motorists are unwilling or unable to pay the fees. As the fees were approved in February, a person convicted of a felony or misdemeanor driving offense has to pay $250 to $1,050 a year for three consecutive years. If the motorist fails to pay, the Department of Motor Vehicles will suspend the person's driver's license.
The report estimates there could be 137,000 suspensions because of the fees through the end of June. An additional 181,000 suspensions could occur because of the fees in the next fiscal year. State officials said the projections represent a substantial increase over the numbers of suspensions generally issued, but they could not provide exact figures.
Auditors based the estimates on current collection rates, which run at about 5 percent for felony driving convictions and 13 percent for people fined who are driving on a suspended or revoked license. There are about 5.3 million licensed drivers in Virginia.
The report says license suspensions spiked in Michigan after it imposed similar fees in 2003. Since then, the state has issued more than 750,000 suspension notices for failure to pay the fees. The study released yesterday says Michigan is issuing 8,000 to 10,000 license suspensions a week. In Texas, which has similar fees, more than 455,000 suspension orders were issued between 2003 and last year.
Judges in Michigan are pushing for a repeal of the fee because cases of unlicensed motorists, some of whom regularly flee police, are clogging the courts. Legislators are considering the repeal.
Although Kaine and GOP leaders had said that the fees would make Virginia highways safer, the report found that arrests for speeding and driving under the influence have increased in the second half of this year over the same period last year.
Between July 1 and Oct. 31, there were 198 more DUI arrests than in the same period last year. There were also 5,282 more speeding arrests.
The report says there has been a decline in arrests for reckless driving. Some of the drop may be the result of police officers being lenient because they don't want certain motorists to be assessed a fee for abusive driving, the report says.
But any decline in reckless driving is tempered by data from the Virginia State Police that show the state is on pace to record more than 1,000 highway fatalities this year for the first time since 1990.
As lawmakers prepare for a potentially contentious debate in January over the fees, the report is fodder for Democrats in the state Senate who plan to push for a repeal. Houck has introduced a bill to do so.
"We need to get rid of these fees," said Ralph Northam (D), an incoming senator from the Hampton Roads area.
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (Fairfax) said the fees will be a top priority. "You are going to see a ton of bills," said Saslaw, who refused to rule out raising the gas tax to replace the fees.
House Republicans are expected to resist repeal efforts. Del. David B. Albo (R-Fairfax) has introduced a bill to make the fees apply to out-of-state drivers; currently, only Virginia drivers are assessed the fees. The bill would also limit the offenses that would trigger a fee, rewrite the reckless driving statute and give judges more latitude on whether to suspend a license.
House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith (R-Salem) said the transportation package, which was designed to increase roads and mass transit funding by $1 billion annually, could unravel if legislators push to repeal the fees. He said some delegates want to get rid of the regional taxing districts in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia, which account for the bulk of the funding in the transportation plan.
"If you start taking out one piece, why can't you take out that second piece and then the third piece?" Griffith said. "Before you know it, all that hard work that created the largest increase in transportation funding in history is going to unravel."
You have a point, JB. (I still have an uncontrollable frustration with the theory and system behind insurance.....but don't have any better ideas.)
It seems to me that while there is no explicit Constitutional right to drive, it is pretty darn close to being one.
Just look at your own personal situation, each of you that read this, and tell me whether or not you could actually get to work (the job that you have now) without the benefit of a car. Could you do all of the things that you do in your job and in your daily life right now without being able to drive?
How would your family be affected if you were not able to drive?
I live in a very large city, but the nearest bus stop to my home is 1 1/2 miles away (during one of my moments on wanting to get fit from walking, I checked it out).
While I work downtown with lots of bus stops, just getting to the one by my home would be difficult. And then think about how I would manage it carrying groceries, getting the kids, going to Dr.'s appts., ect.
I could probably handle it in the short term. But pretty soon I would be tempted by the fact that I have a car just sitting in the driveway. Especially when I have to rush a kid to the doctor, get called into work early, or if the weather is bad.
In other words, RTC, the government should provide every citizen with a car, right? Because if you don't have a car, you still have a right to drive? No? Well, then you're saying you can't drive unless you can afford to drive. Which means you can be required to pay the expenses of driving, like gas, maintainance, and...insurance.
If I could not afford a car, I would have to arrange my life around the fact that I can't drive anywhere. If I can't afford insurance, then I can't afford to drive.
And yes, I would have great difficulty keeping my job if I couldn't drive. But I don't have any right to my job, either. If I can't make it in to work, I get fired.
You've fallen into the trap of assuming just because you are used to having a privilege, and the loss of that privilege would affect your quality of life, that the privilege must be a right (or pretty darn close).
Unless we implement a "pay at the pump" solution for liability insurance we will be forever be drowning in clogged courts, uninsured drivers,unpaid damages and all the other maladies associated with trying to enforce poorly designed legislation.
By "pay at the pump" I mean a program administered by TDI where a state pool pays for all liability claims which would be funded by the dollars collected at the gas pumps as people purchase fuel. This in fact would make it impossible for any driver to be uninsured while driving in Texas.
We can have all the programs in the world aimed at reducing the percentage of uninsured drivers but none will ever work as they leave the choice in the hands of the consumer. This is the beauty of "pay at the pump" as it removes the choice from the driver of any vehicle.
Imagine a state where it is literally impossible to be struck by an uninsured driver. Isn`t that what the goal is?
Wouldn't that also remove any incentive to drive well? Don't worry about hitting a car, the State pays for it. What would the price of gas have to be to handle that approach?
Self preservation should come into play as an incentive to drive well. Pride of ownership and all the normal human conditions would be incentives as well.
As far as the cost goes my calculations show in the 5-6 cents/gal would do the trick.Remember also that inflation in our state is caused mainly by "friction" as it applies to the normal economics we all experience everyday. An example would be an illegal uninsured alien crashing into a school bus with potentially millions of dollars in damages (economic friction) all born by the parents of the children on the bus.This situation has happened and will continue to happen to our citizens no matter what policies we have in place unless we ,by statute, eliminate any possibility of such behavior to happen.
Toyota, for example, is developing cars with built in alcohol testers which in theory would make it impossible to drive while intoxicated. Big Brotherish? Maybe. Effective solution? Yes.
We no longer live in the "fifties" where everyone does the right thing. We live now where avoiding proper behavior seems to be the norm. This ,i believe, is one of the prime functions of government. That function being to protect it`s citizens from immediate danger when possible.
I enjoy reading here even though i am not an attorney (business owner).In my daily reading i sometimes read this site to keep up with issues that affect my business operations. Having many commercial vehicles on the road every day exposed to uninsured drivers certainly qualifies me to be concerned about this and many other topics. We are all in the continual process of creating the environment in which we live and work. As a father of two sons entering the workforce i feel a duty to try and change the things i can which will help all of us. Don`t get me started on property taxes! Laughing as i write this.
KAINE: REPEAL DRIVER FEES
Gov. Timothy M. Kaine last night urged scrapping the bad-driving fees that triggered a voter revolt last fall and that further splintered the legislature that will largely shape his legacy over the next two months.
In a surprise start to the symbolic midpoint of his four-year term, Kaine said the penalties -- part of last year's hard-fought multibillion-dollar fix for transportation -- are a flop.
"The abuser-fee idea has flunked with our voters, and we should acknowledge it and move on," Kaine said to enthusiastic huzzahs in his State of the Commonwealth message to a joint session of the General Assembly.
The cash penalties, some of which were four figures and payable over three years, outraged Virginians because they did not apply to out-of-state drivers. Further, the fees are under challenge in courts across the state.
Kaine, a Democrat, and the Republican leadership initially defended the fees and vowed to repair them. But support for the penalties was further weakened by a recent study by the General Assembly's investigative arm, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, that they would fall short of generating the projected $65 million a year for roads and rails.
Texas motorists charged with certain driving violations owe the state more than $1 billion in surcharges, and many of the 1.2 million people on the unpaid list are driving without valid licenses and at risk of arrest.
The only effective way to prevent someone from driving is to take their keys or their car away from them.
Thanks to the suspended license and no insurance law, our DWLI filings are over the top...again. As each conviction carries yet another surcharge, I'm trying to find some alternatives. We don't have mass transit in this rural county, and several arrests have been of people who work the graveyard shift trying to get to work at the cement plant or wall board plants. Reason for stop has been "saw Johnnie, knew he had no DL, so pulled over" - no bad driving.
My crystal ball is broken - but - are we heading to a time when MOST drivers will be unlicensed? WHat then?
Lisa L. Peterson
Nolan County Attorney
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