Texas’ proposed program to verify that motorists have auto insurance is on hold until next year while the state figures out the best way to manage the data of 15 million drivers.
Officials said the program, which the Legislature approved last year, is being delayed while they figure out how to step up enforcement without accidentally ticketing motorists because of bad information.
“In several states, a lot of people were incorrectly identified as having no insurance. We want to avoid that,” said Carol Cates of the Texas Department of Insurance.
An estimated one in five drivers on the road is uninsured. The insurance industry estimates that Texas drivers pay about $900 million a year to protect themselves against uninsured drivers.
Under the program, law enforcement officials, vehicle inspection stations and others would be able to instantly verify whether a motorist has insurance.
The program is being developed by the insurance department, along with the departments of transportation and public safety. Texas drivers will continue to pay a $1 fee in their license renewals to pay for the program, despite the delay.
State Sen. Todd Staples, who authored the bill to create the program, said he had hoped to see it in place by now.
“While I’m frustrated it has not yet been implemented, it is more important to do the right thing than have a system that is cumbersome for legally insured drivers in our state,” said Staples, R-Palestine.
“Texas has an unacceptable level of uninsured motorists, and we still intend to crack down on those who are violating the law by not having insurance coverage,” he said. “I hope we can see a system in place as early as possible in 2007.”
State officials discarded nearly a dozen bids received earlier this year from information services companies seeking to administer the program. New bids will be taken later this month. The deadline for submission is July 25.
“We weren’t satisfied with what we got back, so we have asked for a second set of bids with greater detail than we requested before,” said Ben Gonzales, an insurance department spokesman.
Officials said the program may take shape as a database with all the information about drivers and their insurance carriers. Another concept is an Internet-based approach that would allow insurers to update information on their policyholders.
Companies that bid for the contract will be allowed to incorporate either concept or both.
Texas law requires drivers to have insurance with at least liability coverage to pay for injuries and damage caused by the driver. But enforcement has been difficult as drivers have found ways to skirt the law using fake insurance cards or purchasing only temporary coverage.
Information from: The Dallas Morning News, www.dallasnews.com.
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