Oklahoma enforces laws on auto insurance
BY PHIL MULKINS World Action Line Editor
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
11/14/12 at 2:59 AM
Being an uninsured motorist could be the most expensive mistake of your life, possibly costing you your vehicle, driver's license, vehicle tag, your job, your bank account, etc.
The Oklahoma Driver's Manual ( tulsaworld.com/OKdrivermanual) details the need for "compulsory liability insurance" on page 3-1. You must be properly insured and have a driver's license to use Oklahoma streets and highways.
Oklahoma enforces laws on having auto liability insurance. "Liability" means, as a driver, you are legally and financially responsible for injury, death or property damages caused by you or your vehicle in a collision.
Oklahoma drivers and vehicle owners are required by law to carry these minimum limits of liability: $25,000 for injury or death of one person, $50,000 for injury or death of two or more persons, and $25,000 for property damage.
"At the time of a collision or a traffic stop, the driver must show a current security verification form (proof of liability insurance) to the law enforcement officer," the manual says. "The vehicle owner's insurance company or an individual's non-owner insurance policy will provide the proper security verification form."
Collisions: The Department of Public Safety will suspend the driver's license of the uninsured driver and/or owner of a vehicle involved in a collision where there is any injury or property damage of $300 or more.
Compulsory liability insurance: If you receive a ticket for failing to have proof of liability insurance, the courts will notify the Department of Public Safety. Your driver's license and your vehicle tags will be suspended.
Verification in your car: Carry your proof of liability insurance in your car. By law, you must show it to a law enforcement officer or Department of Public Safety representative when asked. If you are in a collision, you must show proof of liability insurance to the other driver and others involved.
Financial responsibility: The penalty for not having liability insurance - upon conviction of failure to comply with the Compulsory Insurance Law or failure to produce proof of insurance to a law enforcement officer or Department of Public Safety representative upon request - can result in a fine of up to $250, 30 days in jail, or both, suspension of your driver's license and the vehicle registration.
Consequences of driving uninsured
A new analysis by OnlineAutoInsurance.com of state car insurance laws shows that despite having one of the biggest uninsured-motorist problems in the country, Oklahoma's penalties for driving uninsured "are nowhere near the harshest" ( tulsaworld.com/OnlineAutoInsUnins).
Insurance Research Council statistics ( tulsaworld.com/InsResCounUnins) show that 24 percent of Oklahoma drivers were on the road without the necessary insurance in 2009, making the state fourth-highest in uninsured drivers. The national average was 13.8 percent.
The council looked at every state to see which had the harshest and which had the weakest consequences for driving uninsured. Oklahoma's standard penalty for driving uninsured is a maximum $525 in fines and fees, and a driver's license suspension until fines are paid and proof of insurance is produced.
Those penalties are about average. The most common fine is $500 to $550, and 28 other states have some sort of license-suspension period, but the uninsured problem in Oklahoma is not average. Council statistics for 2009 show that Oklahoma was behind only Mississippi (28 percent), New Mexico (26 percent) and Tennessee (24 percent) in the percentage of drivers not being insured.
Some states with less than half Oklahoma's uninsured rate had much harsher fines and penalties. The top five harshest state laws showed New Jersey, with a projected uninsured rate of 11 percent, took the toughest stance on first-time offenders: The first violation is a $1,000 fine, a one-year license suspension and a community service requirement.
"The trend in percentage of uninsured motorists is an unfortunate consequence of the economic downturn and illustrates how everyone is affected by the economy," said IRC senior vice president Elizabeth A. Sprinkel. "Despite laws requiring drivers to carry insurance, 1 in 7 motorists remain uninsured. This forces drivers carrying insurance to bear the burden of paying for injuries caused by uninsured drivers."
An Oklahoma law effective Nov. 1, 2010 ( tulsaworld.com/OKUninsureTowLaw) authorizes officers to order vehicles of uninsured motorists towed and impounded but does not give police the authority to stop drivers just to verify their insurance status. Even when the online instant insurance verification system indicates vehicles are not insured, they cannot be stopped just for that. Only drivers pulled over for traffic violations or involved in traffic accidents can be checked by police for insurance verification.
House Bill 2525, by Rep. Steve Martin, R-Nowata, would have given officers the authority to stop vehicles just on the basis that they appeared not to comply with the compulsory liability insurance law, based on system information. It would have made the apparent lack of insurance "probable cause to stop." The bill had made it to the floor of the House of Representatives on May 25, but it died in conference.
Original Print Headline: Consequences of driving uninsured
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A vehicle driven by an uninsured motorist plowed into the back of this Mercedes Benz on a Tulsa street. The Mercedes owner, having just basic minimum liability coverage but no "collision" insurance, had to pay for the damages out of her pocket. Only collision coverage will pay for damages caused by uninsured motorists, though many people save on car insurance by dropping collision coverage. "Uninsured motorist" insurance pays only for injuries caused by the uninsured. Tulsa World file