Having car insurance is mandatory in 48 states. The only ones holding out are New Hampshire and Wisconsin. Come June 1 of next year, Wisconsin drivers will be required to present proof of insurance if enforcers and troopers ask during routine traffic stops.
Last month, the state legislature agreed to include provisions for mandatory car insurance in the state budget for next year. Despite this, there are still portions of the new policy that remain confusing to many experts and motorists. Industry analysts say that the state has to fine-tune enforcement guidelines before the new mandate takes effect next year.
At present, it is still unclear what documents drivers have to present as proof that they have insurance. Some experts say that a card or letter from the policyholder’s insurance provider might be enough.
Wisconsin drivers who are pulled over by law enforcers also have to convince troopers that they have insurance, whether they have proof or not. The law sets a $10 fine for drivers who have insurance but cannot present any proof. Motorists proven not to have any insurance at all will face a hefty $500 fine. What is unclear, though, is how police officers can discern drivers who have insurance from those without coverage.
As an option, the state also allows underinsured motorists to get behind the wheel. Starting November 1, however, drivers are required to avail of complete insurance coverage.
The law will also implement higher coverage limits for physical injuries, deaths, and property damage. When this aspect of the law takes full effect on January 1, drivers need to have coverage worth at least $50,000 for bodily injury, $100,000 bodily injury coverage for every accident, and a minimum of $15,000 for property damage. The state’s current limits are substantially lower at $25,000, $50,000, and $10,000, respectively.
Lawmakers have said in the past that the new law will ensure that all motorists will have some sort of protection against accidents and the accompanying expenses. Some advocacy groups, however, say that the law will benefit only drivers who can shell out insurance money.
Nichole Yunk of Center for Driver’s License Recovery & Employability, points out that the law will work against low-income motorists who do not have the financial capability to purchase insurance. The higher limits would mean that a typical driver must spend anywhere from $600 to $700 every six months. Yunk says that this amount is simply unacceptable for many residents who cannot afford to spend that much.