The American Insurance Association (AIA) has called on Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D) to veto HB 509, which would prohibit insurers from adequately pricing personal auto, motorcycle and liability insurance coverage for persons convicted of violating Louisiana law requiring the use of seat belts and motorcycle helmets.
“Seat belt and motorcycle helmet use are the two most important safety actions that vehicle operators can take. They protect the operators and passengers against virtually all types of injuries from all types of collisions,” said John Marlow AIA assistant vice president, Southwest Region. “Anything that encourages their use has a benefit for both the users and the public. Use of these safety devices lowers shared insurance costs, and also helps reduce the burden on taxpayers because some portion of auto collision medical bills are covered by government health programs,” Marlow explained.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), if all passengers were to wear their seat belts, an additional 9,200 fatalities and 143,000 serious injuries could be prevented each year. NHTSA further estimates that the needless deaths and injuries that result from non-use of seat belts cost society approximately $26 billion annually in medical care, lost productivity and other injury related costs.
NHTSA estimates that helmets saved the lives of 1,158 motorcyclists in 2003. If all motorcyclists had worn helmets, an additional 640 lives could have been saved. An estimated $13.2 billion was saved from 1984 through 1999 because of motorcycle helmet use, and an additional $11.1 billion could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets, according to NHTSA.
“One has to wonder, given the benefits of wearing seat belts and helmets, why would Louisiana enact any law that would provide an incentive not to use either safety device,” questioned Marlow.
“Another important aspect of this issue is that higher risk drivers would be subsidized by lower risk drivers, which is totally unfair,” Marlow said.
During a legislative hearing on HB 509, the chief actuary for the Department of Insurance clearly stated that this bill would cause the rates for unsafe drivers – those with one or more citations for non-use of seat belts and helmets – to go down slightly while rates for law abiding safe drivers would increase.
“The bottom line is that this bill is bad public policy. It would hurt public safety and unfairly penalize safe drivers. We have contacted Gov. Blanco and urged her to veto HB 509,” concluded Marlow.
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