(NN&V Staff) – Driving without insurance will be even riskier next month when new laws take effect to crack down on the 20 percent of drivers who don’t carry auto insurance.
Beginning February 1, vehicle owners will have to show proof of insurance before the Department of Motor Vehicles will register their cars and trucks. Drivers must carry proof of insurance and produce it when asked by a police officer.
DMV computers have been programmed to give police officers and judges “real time” information to verify that insurance coverage is valid and not cancelled after the insurance card was issued.
Nevada drivers have been required to carry liability insurance – insurance that pays for injuries and property damage when the driver causes an accident – since 1973. The state legislature suspended the requirement to produce proof of insurance as a condition of registration in 2003 in response to complaints about long waiting lines at DMV. Last year, the legislature reinstated the requirement to reduce the growing number of uninsured drivers and collect more revenue from the premium taxes the state levies on every policy. The new DMV program should help keep waits to a minimum.
In January, 2009, the state’s uninsured motorist rate was estimated at 17 percent. A study released that same month by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) found a correlation between the rate of uninsured motorists and unemployment. For every one percentage point increase in unemployment, the rate of uninsured motorists can be expected to increase by three-quarters of one percent.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nevada’s unemployment rate increased from 8 percent to 12.3 percent between November 2008 and November 2009. Based on the IRC study, it is estimated that about 20 percent of Nevada automobiles are now uninsured.
“Part of the auto insurance premiums paid by law-abiding consumers pays for the accidents and injuries caused by uninsured motorists,” said Michael Geeser, president of the Nevada Insurance Council. “Uninsured motorists are one of the reasons auto insurance costs what it does.”
State law requires every motor vehicle to be covered by auto insurance with limits of $15,000 for injury to one person, $30,000 for injuries to two or more people and $10,000 for property damage. Most consumers also buy uninsured motorist coverage, which pays for injuries caused by drivers without insurance.
Penalties for violations of the mandatory insurance law include: suspension of registration and license plates, a $250 DMV reinstatement fee, additional court penalties if the driver is stopped by law enforcement or involved in an accident, suspension of drivers’ licenses of those involved in uninsured accidents and additional fines that may be imposed by the courts.
Drivers without insurance who cause accidents face serious consequences. They can be sued in court and forced to pay thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees, have their wages garnished and lose their savings, investments and other assets to pay damages. Some have been forced into bankruptcy.