Faced with increasing numbers of uninsured drivers, the state of Illinois is trying to figure a new way to prevent uninsured motorists from getting behind the wheel.
Despite tougher legislation enacted two years ago, more Illinois drivers are taking to the road despite not having updated insurance coverage. The state imposed stiffer penalties including taking away the driving rights of motorists caught without the proper papers.
Recent figures, however, have shown that in those two years, more than 115,000 motorists have lost their licenses for not having proper insurance. In 2008, some 68,000 drivers were suspended while about 31,000 have been stripped of their licenses this year alone.
State Rep. Bill Black (R) of Danville said that the law was changed in 2007 to prevent people from driving without insurance. He said that while he was glad to see many people getting caught under his plan, he was displeased by the figures.
Black also admitted that the legislation is simply not working because of the sheer volume of uninsured drivers on the road.
However, Secretary of State Jesse White’s spokesman Henry Haupt gave a different reaction. He said that the law is working because of the number of people who have lost their licenses. Haupt explains that drivers are sent letters explaining why their licenses are suspended. They also have to shell out $100 at the end of three months to drive again.
Industry specialists in the state say that if the numbers go up, the question would now become how to convince people to buy insurance. Based on past data, an estimated 12 to 15 percent of Illinoisans do not have vehicle insurance.
Kevin Martin, the Illinois Insurance Association’s executive director, says that Illinois can adopt plans already in place in many states. Police can impound the uninsured driver’s car if needed. Martin has some qualms about the suggestion though, saying that the practice can be unfair to drivers who are insured but do not have the papers with them.
Lawmakers are already considering another option that involves jail time. Uninsured drivers who cause car accidents can be imprisoned for up to a year if the new proposal is approved. The plan is still awaiting Gov. Pat Quinn’s approval.
The suggestion was born out of the tragic death of Johnston City resident Michael Dean. He was killed in 2006 in a car crash caused by an uninsured motorist.