Drivers without insurance

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 24, 2000

to face financial penalties


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In less than a week, Alabama drivers will by bound by law to have insurance on their vehicles, and a failure to comply will bring stiff financial penalties.

Effective June 1, Alabama drivers will be required to have insurance whether or not the driver is the owner of the vehicle he or she is driving.

A first-time violation will result in a person’s vehicle registration being suspended, said Pike County Probate Judge Bill Stone. The fee to re-instate the vehicle’s registration is $100 and citizens must show proof of insurance in order to do this.

Insurance must remain in effect for a full year to prevent a subsequent suspension.

Second-time offenders will be hit with a $200 fee to re-instate their vehicle’s registration and will be required to show proof of insurance. Insurance must be maintained for three years.

There have been additional reports from the Department of Public Safety that there is a $500 fine attached to each violation, said Pike County Sheriff Russell Thomas.

"It’s steep," he said. "The are apparently serious about this."

Until recently, the law remained quiet, a local insurance agent said, but as the deadline approaches, publicity has resulted in a lot of requests for quotes.

"In the past week or so, we have seen an increase in the number of people who have requested quotes," said Mike Kreis, owner of the Kreis Agancy, an independent insurance office in Troy. "We have seen a lot of people request quotes in recent days because of the new law."

Kreis said he believes the law is a good one because it requires more responsibility on the part of the state’s drivers. Kreis also believes that the law also applies fair standards to accidents.

"Someone who had insurance would have to get his insurance to pay for damage done to his car if he was in an accident with an uninsured driver, no matter whose fault it was," Kreis said. "They pay a lot of money for insurance and shouldn’t have to file a claim which would make their policy go up when someone else was at fault. The state wants to make people more responsible in owning a car."

But Kreis is worried about what the law could do to his customers and other policyholders throughout the state.

"Because we will be underwriting policies to more people – including some high-risk customers – we could see rates increase as a whole due to more claims and accidents," he said. "That is the negative side to the law."

But Kreis has more insight on the law than many local law enforcement agencies.

Local authorities don’t seem to have a clear understanding of the law, primarily because there has been no report issued to local agencies regarding the details of the law.

"The law takes effect June 1," Thomas said. "But as of now, we still haven’t seen documentation from an authoritative source explaining the procedures of enforcing the law."

Thomas said he doesn’t know what to tell his officers to do when confronted with a driver who does not have insurance.

"Do we hold him as we do a suspended driver? Do we let him go? Does this law fall under title 32 for traffic or does it fall under something else?" Thomas said. "These are the kinds of things we don’t know at this point because we haven’t seen a hard copy of the law or an interpretation of it from an authoritative source. We don’t know how to enforce the law because we don’t know the procedures associated with it."

Troy Police Department officials are likewise a little puzzled by the new law.

"All I can say at this point is that there is a liability insurance law that will go into effect on June 1," said Sgt. Benny Scarbrough, public information officer for the Troy Police Department.

Scarbrough said information on the law has been sparse.

"At this point and time, we just don’t know a lot about this law and how it will be enforced," he said.

Confusion aside violators have reason to worry. According to Stone, agencies will spot check 10 percent of the state’s drivers for insurance and citations will be issued.