Posted in: Commentary,
by Gregg Laskoski on Jan 17, 2013 06:00 AM
Even with a percentage of uninsured motorists that's below the national average, Hawaii is taking significant steps to reduce the cost that the uninsured impose on law-abiding motorists.
A group of transportation officials is recommending that the state establish a web-based verification system within two years that allows authorities to instantly confirm that a driver has a valid policy.
The recommendations, published by the state’s regulatory department late last week, establish the framework of an insurance verification program, including issuing notifications that target uninsured motorists who repeatedly break the law and suspension of their vehicle registrations if they fail to reply.
The program should be implemented in January 2015, according to the group, which also recommended that lawmakers consider legislation allowing motorists to provide electronic proof of insurance coverage to authorities when asked.
According to onlineautoinsurance.com, the group looked at two general types of programs that allow authorities to instantly confirm a car has the proper coverage: one that utilizes “book of business” information regularly submitted from insurers to a database and the other employing web-based verification through coverage data like policy numbers.
Hawaii had an 11.2 percent rate of uninsured drivers in 2009, according to the most recent data available from the Insurance Research Council, putting it lower that the nationwide average of 13.8 percent that year.
Hawaii’s uninsured penalties for first-time offenders includes a maximum $500 fine and three-month license suspension.
Repeat offenders face at least a $1,500 fine, though they can ask for community service in lieu of the fine.
The working group found that Hawaii had court provisions of “particular interest” governing penalties charged against uninsured drivers. Under those provisions, a judge has the discretion to suspend the entire fine or part of it if the motorist can provide proof of coverage to the court or, if that motorist asks for it, substitute community service in place of a fine.
The working group also made final recommendations that fines be made mandatory to fund a “special fund” that would support administration of the verification program.
According to the Honolulu Police Department, the number of citations issued by officers to uninsured motorists fell from nearly 30,800 in 2003 to about 14,180 in 2011. The department said the drop may be attributed to “the increased ability to produce realistic forgeries of motor vehicle insurance cards.”
There will always be someone looking to beat the system, but for now, online verification by an approved third-party sounds like a very good start.