Summer is officially here, and temperatures across Indiana are rising. Many Hoosiers take advantage of life in the Crossroads of America, to take family road trips to destinations across the country. For many, this is one of the countless fun parts of summer; however with driving comes an immense amount of responsibility. Quality time with family may be priceless, but vacations can carry a hefty price tag. I know we are all looking for ways to have fun without breaking the bank.
One of the biggest responsibilities that come with the freedom of driving is the mandatory requirement to carry motor vehicle insurance. People who carry motor vehicle insurance end up paying more to cover those who do not. Despite the fact that current law requires drivers to purchase minimum auto liability coverage, in Indiana, it is estimated that 15 to 20 percent of motorists are still uninsured.
Over time, it has become apparent that simply ramping up punitive measures on people who drive uninsured does not work. Often, the penalty for not carrying insurance is less expensive than the insurance premium would be. This session, we recognized the need to thoroughly study this problem and develop more effective solutions.
Due to the complexity of this issue, we created an interim study committee on insurance which will study this issue in greater detail, reporting their findings to the Legislative Council concerning uninsured motorists in Indiana (House Enrolled Act 1098). This committee will explore the economic impact of uninsured motorists in Indiana and possible solutions to the problem, including insurance verification processes, coverage restrictions and fines.
We also passed another piece of legislation which we hope will provide the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) more tools and greater flexibility to keep uninsured motorists off of our roads. Senate Enrolled Act 620 allows the BMV to suspend driving privileges if a driver is found to be operating a vehicle without insurance regardless of whether or not they carry insurance on another vehicle.
However, this legislation provides a layer of protection for those drivers who have followed the law by obtaining insurance, but through no fault of their own, are operating a vehicle that is uninsured. We want to take a tougher stance on irresponsible drivers while not unfairly punishing drivers who for situations that are out of their control, fail to have insurance.
This legislation will also help bring Indiana forward with the times. Many people decide to go paperless and maintain important documents on their cell phones. This legislation will allow people to show proof of insurance to an officer as an image on their smart phone.
The presence of uninsured motorists on our roadways is an ongoing problem that the BMV and the General Assembly are continually trying to address. There will always be people who chose not to obey the law but having 15 to 20 percent of Hoosiers driving uninsured is just too high. This year, consumers across the nation faced an average premium increase of $153, a 35 percent increase from last year. Decreasing the number of uninsured motorists is an important step towards providing financial relief on premiums as well as safeguarding both Hoosier citizens and the state from unnecessary financial burdens.
Keeping uninsured motorist off the road is a complex, yet very important task. Not only is it illegal to drive uninsured but the added level of danger leads insurance companies to raise their premiums. Hoosiers should not be forced to suffer as a result of the wrongdoings of others. Through this new legislation, not only do we hope to see less uninsured drivers but also more dollars in the hands of Hoosiers to spend as they please. After all, it’s summer. Shouldn’t we be able to afford a little getaway?