Wyoming Panel Considering Changes to Catch Uninsured Drivers

July 8, 2005

A legislative panel is considering new proposals aimed at reducing the number of uninsured motorists in Wyoming without creating a lot more work for insurance companies and the state.

Vehicle owners in Wyoming are required to have insurance, but some drop it shortly after registering their vehicles, officials say.

Past attempts to require insurance companies to notify the Wyoming Department of Transportation when motorists cancel or default on their liability insurance have drawn objections from both entities as too costly or cumbersome.

But the Joint Wyoming Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Interim Committee heard two new proposals at its meeting in Douglas last week that might prove more promising.

One proposal, presented by lobbyist Dan Lex for AIG Insurance Co., would involve a random sample of about 10 percent of registered vehicles annually to verify they were insured. Those who were not would have their car licenses removed and their owners could face prosecution, he said.

An annual random sample would be less costly to implement than a reporting requirement but would catch some violators, Lex said.

In addition, it would provide some incentive for people to keep their vehicles insured, he said.

The second proposal would have police use a Web service to immediately verify whether a motorist is insured.

Jim O’Connor, support services administrator for WYDOT, said the service can tell whether a vehicle is covered by insurance by checking its vehicle identification numbers against insurance company databases.

Police dispatch centers could use the service to inform officers if drivers involved in a crash or are pulled over for other violations are insured, he said.

But Donald Coy, representing State Farm Insurance, said Web services aren’t always accurate because a few VINs may be entered incorrectly by insurance companies, auto licensing clerks and Web service employees.

Joel Schell, Converse County treasurer, said such a Web service could slow down the issuing of license plates.

But David Uchner, representing the American Insurance Association, said the Web service might be the best answer to the uninsured problem.

“We’re right on the edge of going on the Web site, and we think now’s the time. This might be a chance for Wyoming to jump out in front,” he said.

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