Uninsured Driver Legislation Filed in Texas

March 14, 2005

State Representative Bill Callegari, Katy, filed House Bill 2573 to establish a motor vehicle financial responsibility program in Texas. According the House Media Services Division, HB 2573 is a version of a similar measure that passed the House of Representatives with widespread support in 2003 only to fall short of a deadline requirement in the Senate.

“Uninsured motorists remain a significant problem in this state, costing those who drive by the rules millions of dollars each year,” said Rep. Callegari. “While Texas state law requires that all drivers carry auto insurance policies, estimates that one in five Texas drivers are uninsured suggests that many choose to ignore it. My bill establishes a program to promote continued verification of motorists’ insurance obligations.”

As introduced, HB 2573 requires the Department of Public Safety to develop a program that will be effective in reducing the number of uninsured motorists in Texas in a reliable, cost-effective manner. The bill requires that the program developed by the department work to continually verify whether car owners have continuing insurance coverage for their cars. The bill also requires that any program adopted by the agency ensure that the privacy of motor vehicle owners be protected.

“Currently drivers are required to show proof of insurance when their car is inspected, upon registration renewal, and during a traffic stop,” said Rep. Callegari. “Despite the requirement that an insurance card be provided at these instances, there is no method available to verify if the card provided is valid. This bill provides law enforcement with a way to do that.”

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, over 20 percent of Texas drivers carry no insurance while operating vehicles on state roads. This high number of uninsured motorists has costs Texans. According to the Texas Department of Insurance, in 2003 Texans paid approximately $861 million in premiums relating to uninsured motorist coverage.

Twenty-seven states have implemented programs similar to the one proposed in HB 2573. Of these states, the average uninsured motorist rate was 26 percent before the program’s implementation, while the average post-implementation rate was nearly nine percent. For example, in Utah, implementation of a similar program dropped its uninsured motorist rate from 23 percent of all drivers to 8 percent.

Rep. Callegari continued, “Ideally, this bill should be unnecessary because drivers ought to play by the rules, and enjoy the privilege of driving on Texas roads and highways while under the coverage of an auto insurance policy. But that is not a reality here. My bill establishes a technologically sound program to better ensure drivers’ financial responsibilities. In the long run, this measure should produce more insured drivers and, hopefully, lower car insurance rates.”

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