Posted in: Commentary,
by Gregg Laskoski on Dec 10, 2012 02:30 PM
Some states take this problem very seriously. In Florida, regretfully, it's a joke. But just a few months ago police in South Florida (where at least 1 in 4 motorists is uninsured) decided to crack down.
In Broward County, the Sun-Sentinel reported that hundreds of South Florida law enforcement officers were part of a one-day crackdown on uninsured motorists a few weeks ago.
Nearly 25 percent of all drivers in Florida don't have insurance, according to the nonprofit Insurance Research Council. That's about one in every four drivers, putting Florida in the top five of states with uninsured drivers. Uninsured drivers is one reason Floridians pay $1,476 a year, on average, for automobile insurance, according to estimates by Insure.com.
To combat the problem, officers in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties partnered with insurance agents as part of the one-day campaign.
Officials say that because this is South Florida, where scams and fraud are common, many drivers don't have insurance and are driving with fake insurance cards also...
That's why the main goal was to target uninsured drivers, and also catch those with phony insurance cards that can be easily be doctored or purchased on the Internet.
"It's a big problem everywhere, and this is one way to try to stay on top of it," said Deputy Eric Davis with the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.
At the root of the problem South Florida law enforcement agents' inability to verify insurance information during a routine traffic stop. With no direct connection to insurance databases, officers, dispatchers and troopers have to make a phone call to the insurance companies to confirm the information.
That poses a manpower and time problem, most often leaving it up to the officer's discretion whether to pursue a possible arrest, officials said.
"We are on the side of the road, and it would take us half a day making phone calls like that. That's why this campaign was so important to us," said Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Mark Wysocky.
In Broward, agents from about 20 insurance companies sat with laptops inside a sheriff's substation in Tamarac. Troopers and deputies spent the day pulling over traffic violators and then calling into the operations center to verify the insurance information.
According to the Sun-Sentinel, drivers found to have forged paperwork can be charged with a third-degree felony for carrying fraudulent proof of insurance. In Florida, that carries a maximum of five years in prison, if convicted.
Just before rush hour there were about 160 calls to the operations center in Broward for verification of insurance. The operation snagged 10 people with expired insurance and three people were arrested on allegations of having phony insurance cards, according to Broward sheriff's spokeswoman Keyla Concepcion.
Those arrested had their cars towed, were booked in jail and were awaiting a judge to set their bonds.
What do you think? Should police have access to auto insurance records to confirm whether you're an insured or uninsured motorist?