New Okla. Insurance Verification Program Has a Sizable Hole

An auto insurance-verification program set to take effect in Oklahoma next summer does not address a growing number of uninsured drivers – those who are illegal immigrants.

The new real-time system will allow law enforcement officers to immediately determine whether or not a driver has the required insurance on a vehicle, an improvement from the current system. The goal of the new system is to reduce the number of uninsured drivers on Oklahoma roads.

But current Oklahoma law prevents illegal immigrants from buying car insurance, because the state denies them the ability to legally obtain a driver’s license.

“We know we have a lot of illegal residents who cannot get a driver license,” said Lonnie Jarman, the director of financial responsibility at the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety. “Here we have a problem until we get this thing resolved because they have cars.”

Jarman estimates that as many as one-fourth of drivers in Oklahoma do not have car insurance, although other estimates are lower.

“No one can tell you what the number is because it’s a constantly moving target,” Jarman said.

“Cars are bought and sold and insurance plans are sold and canceled every day.

It’s practically impossible to know how many illegal immigrants in Oklahoma are driving without insurance, because the state does not know how many illegal immigrants reside in Oklahoma.

U.S. Rep John Sullivan, R-Tulsa, who has been deeply involved in studying the issue of illegal immigration, has estimated the latter number at 40,000 to 60,000.

Neither a driver’s license nor auto insurance is required to buy a vehicle in Oklahoma, although proof of insurance is required to register the car with the state.

The nation’s number of uninsured drivers rose from 12.7 percent in 1999 to 14.6 percent in 2004, according to the Insurance Research Council. That group’s senior vice president, Elizabeth Sprinkel, said that whether or not immigration influenced that increase is “beyond the scope of the study.”

Information from: Tulsa World,