Officials Estimate About One in Four Oklahoma Drivers Uninsured

April 7, 2008

About one of every four vehicles on Oklahoma roads is uninsured despite efforts by lawmakers to target motorists who drive without insurance, state officials say.

The state’s rate of uninsured motorists has remained steady in recent years, said Lonnie Jarman, driver compliance director at the state Department of Public Safety.

“In the 50 states and the District of Columbia, there is no one that has found the perfect solution ,” Jarman said.

Many motorists who fail to carry auto insurance do so because they can’t afford it, Jarman said.

“Most states have found regardless of what they try to do, it doesn’t change that rate very much,” Jarman said. “The reason why that is, is because it’s a social issue, the social issue being, “I can’t afford it.”‘

The Insurance Research Council, an industry group, estimates that 14.8 percent of Oklahoma motorists are uninsured, the 18th-worst rate in the nation. But law enforcement, insurance and state officials think the actual rate may be twice as high.

Dan Ramsey, president of the Independent Insurance Agents of Oklahoma, estimated that between 23 percent and 30 percent of state motorists are uninsured.

“Everybody who has insurance is paying for those who don’t,” Ramsey said. “So then you figure your insurance rates might be 23 to 30 percent higher than they ought to be.”

Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, wrote a bill last year to allow law enforcement officers to impound vehicles that were uninsured. The bill was not adopted. Anderson, who thinks as many as one in three state motorists are uninsured, said he pushed for the measure in response to constituents’ complaints.

“One lady in particular, a single mom, was paying her $30 month for auto insurance and gets hit by an uninsured motorist, and now she has no vehicle and no money to replace the vehicle,” Anderson said. “She’s at a huge loss and she was doing everything she could to comply with the law.”

A new Web-based method of instantly identifying uninsured vehicles is scheduled to launch in Oklahoma on July 1, Jarman said.

A similar computerized system in Texas has been plagued with glitches and inaccurate information that could prompt officers to take action against drivers who are insured, said Jerry Johns, of the Texas-based Southwest Insurance Information Service.

“It has become a nightmare,” Johns said. “It was supposed to start in January, and they’re no closer now than they were before. The real issue is the accuracy of the information that goes in.”

Jarman said Oklahoma officials hope to be ready by the scheduled date for the launch.

“We’re working on it,” he said. “We’re doing our best.”

Information from: The Oklahoman,

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