Insurance agents headed by the Alabama Independent Insurance Agents, Inc. (AIIA) are lobbying Alabama’s Congress to enact a law that would pave the way for a real-time auto insurance verification system. The move, according to the trade group, would most likely be introduced at the state’s Senate.
It must be noted that since 2000, automobile insurance has been mandated in Alabama. However, for a down payment of as low as $50, a driver could get a proof of insurance card which would be valid for six months. As such, even if the policy holder discontinues or has lapses in monthly payments, authorities would not immediately know of this, and this could lead to trouble for both parties in a vehicular accident.
In the lobbied bill, a real-time verification system of auto insurance would utilize an Internet-based information or data bank which would allow law enforcers to view within seconds, information/s regarding a vehicle’s motor insurance. Using computers in patrol cars, the system would be linked with files from different insurance companies operating within the state and thereby enable easy access. This way, insurance cards with lapsed policies could no longer be used as an excuse to get away from the mandated insurance coverage.
But the system also applies to vehicle registration. The group is pushing for penal provisions ranging from a minor traffic citation for a first offense, and a felony citation for driving using a counterfeit insurance card. Pascal Caputo, a lobbyist hired by the AIIA, said that they want to significantly “decrease the odds of law-abiding Alabamians being hit by an uninsured motorist.”
Ken McFeeters, a member of the AIIA’s legislative committee, stated that the verification system would primarily benefit the average motorist. He explained that road mishaps involving uninsured motorists could cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. With policies starting at $35 per month, he continued that there is really no excuse for having at least the minimum coverage. McFeeters also emphasized that the group’s move is not motivated by profit, stating that “most insurance agents lose money on basic auto policies.”
To date, according to the group, the move is being supported by Governor Bob Riley, Senator Roger Bedford, Senator Arthur Orr and the Department of Revenue. The proposed bill, however, must first pass through several committees, get approved by both houses of congress, and then get signed by the governor before it could take effect.
McFeeters said that with a good mandatory insurance law in place, what is lacking is a “good street enforcement.” He is hopeful that this time, their proposal would finally become a law.