Ill. Toughens Penalties Against Uninsured Motorists

July 22, 2003

Illinois drivers cited three times by police for driving without proof of the mandated auto liability policy will now have their drivers’ licenses revoked, while uninsured motorists involved in an accident that injures the other party will have their vehicles seized by authorities.

The two separate measures went into effect in July 2003, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The latter measure, signed into law by Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich earlier this month, also allows police to seize the vehicles of those who drive without a license.

Illinois passed its mandatory auto liability insurance law in 1990, but the Insurance Research Council estimated in 2001 that 13 percent of the state’s drivers are uninsured. The group also said that Illinois was only one of six states whose number of uninsured motorists had increased.

The new law sets a minimum $500 first offense fee and suspension of vehicle registration until proof of insurance along with $100 is provided to the state.

A common complaint previously had been that since offenders were often charged with other moving violations along with not having the mandated insurance, judges asked for leniency set aside the insurance fine and simply required proof of insurance before the court date and the reinstatement fee.

The second offense will mean the vehicle registration is suspended for four months. Those driving with a suspended vehicle registration would face a $1,000 fine.

At least one agent said the new measures are not enough.

“If you’re talking about three times [before the license is revoked], then it could take three years or even five years before you really catch up with somebody,” Rebecca Korach Woan, principal at Active Insurance Agency in Chicago, told Insurance Journal.

Korach Woan also spoke at two hearings in June and July on the matter of uninsured motorists and released a white paper suggesting various reforms. In the white paper, she advocated revoking an uninsured motorist’s driver’s license as well as vehicle registration on the first offense.

“A suspended vehicle registration is inadequate to deter uninsured motorists from driving,” the white paper says. “Drivers will in some cases continue to drive the vehicle, or they will simply drive another car, sell their vehicle, or re-register the vehicle with a family member. A valid driver’s license is far more important than a valid vehicle registration because the driver’s license is used as a primary form of identification and is now verified as part of job application and credit checks.”

Korach Woan said Illinois should try a “no pay, no play” policy, which she said California and Louisiana have already put in place.

Such a policy would bar uninsured motorists from suing for pain and suffering damages.

“That’s a big deal if you lose your right to pain and suffering,” she said. “Impounding the vehicle is just not that punitive. If it’s an older vehicle they’ll just dump it and buy a new one.”

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