The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

December 26, 2012

New Alabama law targets drivers without insurance

— MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The owners of the 900,000 Alabama vehicles without liability insurance stand a better chance of getting caught starting Jan. 1.

That's when the state will start enforcing a law designed to crack down on motorists who don't abide by Alabama's mandatory insurance law. It is one of several laws that take effect with the new year.

A new online insurance verification system, overseen by the state Revenue Department, will check insurance companies' records within a few seconds to see if a motorist has insurance. County license plate officials will use it when issuing or renewing a tag. Police will use it when issuing tickets. And the Revenue Department will do random computer checks to find motorists who have dropped their insurance. The new system is the result of a bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Arthur Orr of Decatur.

The Insurance Research Council estimates that 22 percent of Alabama's more than 4 million private vehicles don't abide by the mandatory insurance law, which is the sixth-highest rate of any state.

Magee said her goal for the new system is to get that figure below 10 percent.

That would be a relief for staffers at the state Insurance Department. "Our number one or number two complaint every year is: I got hit by someone without insurance. Why is this happening?" Chief of Staff Ragan Ingram said.

Under the current law, a motorist can buy insurance when it's time to renew a car tag and get an insurance card to show officials. Then the motorist can quit paying for the insurance after one month, but still have the insurance card to show police if stopped for speeding. With the new system, the police officer can learn the status of the driver's insurance while checking the car tag. Then the officer can write two tickets: one for speeding and one for driving without insurance.

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