Florida is considering a database on auto insurance to catch uninsured drivers

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"Can you give me your license, your registration and your insurance card, please?"

This question never signals happy moments. Almost always, we ask a driver stopping for a traffic offense or involved in an accident.

The law enforcement official can quickly check the status of your license and your registration via a real-time database in any state, but not your status. current insurance.

That could change soon if the promoters managed in the legislative session this spring.

A bill introduced by the Wellington Democrat, Matt Willhite, would require the state to set up an online verification system by July 1, 2022. Once in operation, insurance companies would be required to download weekly status reports for all their clients. the police would be required to question the insurance status of drivers involved in roadside checks or investigations in the event of an accident. Drivers would still be required to submit proof of insurance.

In an interview Monday, Willhite said another 13 states had adopted a standardized database that Florida could join.

The insurance audit could help reduce the uninsured motorist rate of 26.7% in Florida. It's the worst in the country, according to a report released in October 2017 by the Insurance Research Council, a nonprofit research organization funded by the sector.

Under the current system, it is too easy for motorists to subscribe to a six-month policy, stop making payments after the first month, keep their "current" insurance card, and continue driving. said Willhite.

The obligations of the scofflaws are assumed by all the others who are obliged to pay inflated premiums. In 2015-16, in only four states and the District of Columbia, motorists paid more in premiums than the $ 1,339 paid by Florida drivers, according to a report released last month by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

"It's not fair for people who pay their fair share," Willhite said.

Under Florida law without fault, vehicle owners must take out a minimum coverage of $ 10,000 for property damage and $ 10,000 for personal protection. Coverage includes personal injury coverage of $ 10,000 per person and $ 20,000 per accident.

Coverage is required before vehicle owners can obtain registration and registration plates, and must be retained throughout the registration period.

Failure to maintain insurance is supposed to result in a driver's license suspension for up to three years and reinstatement fees of $ 150 to $ 500. And while Florida law requires insurers to notify the state when clients let insurance expire, this process does not seem to work fast enough, Willhite said.

Several states have implemented online verification systems with various enforcement mechanisms.

In Tennessee and Oklahoma, law enforcement officers have the ability to seize vehicles when their owners are caught driving without insurance.

The Oklahoma law also gives the police the option of replacing the vehicle license tag with a special temporary label that secures the vehicle and its owner for 10 days to give the owner time to purchase insurance.

The October 2017 report by the Insurance Research Council indicated that the uninsured motorist rate in Oklahoma had fallen from 24% in 2006 to 10.5% in 2015, which is "likely" due to more severe state.

Willhite's bill does not propose giving the police the power to impound vehicles or increase the penalties for being trapped in driving without insurance.

The lack of enforcement provisions in the bill leaves some questions unanswered: Once the police have found that a motorist is not insured, should he be allowed to to get back in a car and to leave by car?

This and other issues will have to be examined as the bill progresses in the process, said Willhite.

"There must be teeth; some application, "he said.

Three bills similar to Willhite's were introduced in 2017 and 2018 but were not voted on by full members.

Representatives from two professional groups in the insurance industry – the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida and the American Property and Casualty Insurance Association (formerly the American Property and Casualty Insurance Association) – said their organizations supported the bill.

"We like this idea and believe it would help reduce the number of uninsured motorists in Florida," said Michael Carlson, president of the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida.