More on no-fault

Let me begin by saying that I've become really proud of the Sun-Sentinel's coverage of a couple of issues over the last year or two. They were the first, to my knowledge, to start saying what many suspected about the real estate market down here, namely that it was unsustainable and was softening, and they did so over the howling objections of the real estate industry, which has a lot of clout down here. And they've done the same with the no-fault insurance story, front-paging stories not only about the expiration of the law, but also about the effects on drivers should it expire. That's generally dry stuff, and not what you'd think would sell papers, but they're running it, and running it hard.

And it's an important issue, as I've said before. The Sun-Sentinel article points out the most important problem with letting the law expire.

But two major enforcement tools will disappear along with no-fault: a requirement that insurance companies tell the state when a driver drops insurance; and the ability of law enforcement to check insurance papers any time they stop a motorist.

Mandatory insurance laws don't work without enforcement provisions--they barely work with the enforcement provisions. There were a number of times when I was an undergrad where I had the choice between driving without insurance and paying the rent, or eating--guess what won? And that was in a state where if you were caught driving without insurance, the state would tow your car from a traffic stop, and keep it in a storage yard at $60 or more a day until 1) you had insurance, 2) you'd paid the hefty fine for driving without it, and 3) paid the tow company for towing your car. And if you didn't do that within something like 30 days (the costs getting higher all the time), the state could seize your car, sell it at auction, and then charge you for the rest of teh bill, taking it out of your state income tax returns and refusing to renew your driver's license or let you register another car until you'd made good. And still, people took the chance.

So when Florida's no-fault expires, and people discover that a cop can't check their insurance card at a speeding stop, there will be a number of people who will take the chance, especially once insurance rates go up--and they will go up, make no mistake about it. They'll drop in the short term, because that's the carrot the big insurance companies have used to get the state to let no-fault expire, but they'll go up again quickly.

And for people concerned about protecting their own property, they'll probably go up immediately, because responsible drivers will worry about protecting themselves against people without insurance, so they'll add protection they wouldn't need under no-fault. How big of an issue is this statewide?

In 2006 alone, police agencies across the state issued 322,520 citations to drivers because they weren't carrying proof of insurance. At least 94,000 paid a fine.

During the same period, the Highway Safety Department issued warnings to nearly 850,000 car owners after getting notices that their insurance policies had been dropped. While many notices were the result of drivers changing insurance companies or buying new cars, 350,000 did have their licenses suspended for not having coverage.

Neither of those enforcement tools will exist once no-fault is gone.

There's contact information for your state legislators' offices in the other links on this subject. Contact them and tell them to, at the very least, renew no-fault for another year rather than letting it expire.

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