Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Texas Cracking Down on Uninsured Drivers

Texas officials issued a stern warning recently to millions of Texas motorists: if you’re driving without car insurance, your free ride is coming to an end.

Representatives from the Texas Department of Insurance, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) were on hand to unveil TexasSure, the state’s new program to identify vehicles without liability insurance. The goal is to reduce the number of uninsured vehicles in Texas, currently estimated at approximately 4 million.

At its heart, TexasSure is a secure database that matches the records of registered passenger vehicles in Texas to personal auto insurance policy data submitted by 200-plus Texas insurance companies. With such information at their fingertips, law enforcement officers and county tax officials can instantly verify whether a vehicle has auto liability coverage required by state law.

The four collaborating state agencies see the upcoming launch of the new database as a wake-up call for Texas’ uninsured motorists: if you’re not covered, you’ll be discovered.

“Many different stakeholders helped to develop the technology system needed to make this work. I commend DPS, TxDOT, DIR and those in the insurance industry for putting together this one-of-a-kind solution,” said Texas Insurance Commissioner Mike Geeslin. “Any tool that helps us reduce the number of uninsured vehicles is good news for law-abiding Texans with coverage.”

Drivers with auto insurance don’t need to do anything other than continue to carry their proof of insurance card, as required by law. Texas insurance companies send policy information each week to the TexasSure vendor, and it is matched to TxDOT’s vehicle registration records.

“For too long, having a collision in Texas has been like playing a game of Russian roulette, where you never know whether the at-fault driver is carrying the required insurance,” said DPS Highway Patrol Lt. Sanchez. “Because of TexasSure, we believe drivers now will be far more likely to get and keep a liability policy when they realize we have a way to identify phony proof-of-insurance cards and catch those who cancel their policy as soon as they get their cars registered or inspected.”

Texas law requires minimum liability coverage of $25,000 per injured person, up to a total of $50,000 for everyone injured in an accident and $25,000 for property damage. Liability coverage pays other people’s expenses in accidents caused by the insured driver.

Driving without liability insurance can result in a fine of up to $350 and possibly hundreds of dollars more in court costs and additional fees. Repeat offenders also are subject to a twoyear driver license suspension.

The new database verification program will be fully implemented statewide later this year. TxDOT and county tax officials have begun using the database in local county tax offices for vehicle registration. DPS is currently field testing the program in the Austin area.

More than 30 other states have some type of auto insurance verification program in place. Each has seen a reduction in the number of uninsured vehicles on the road.

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