All motorists in Tennessee are required to purchase vehicle coverage to legally drive, but a lack of enforcement has helped make the state’s percentage of uninsured drivers one of the highest in the country. The Insurance Research Council estimates that in 2009 roughly 24 percent of motorists in the Volunteer State had not met the mandatory financial responsibility requirements. Based on these figures, nearly 1 out of every 4 drivers in the state are without protection.
In an attempt to rectify this problem, Senator Bo Watson has introduced SB 2292, which proposes the creation of an electronic insurance verification system in Tennessee, similar to systems found in Texas and Montana. If passed, coverage providers will work diligently with state departments and local authorities to create an electronic database where county clerks and law enforcement officers can quickly and easily verify whether or not a motorist is insured.
With this system in place, state officials would verify whether vehicle owners have purchased auto insurance in Tennessee in order to register or renew registration on their automobile. These digital records would be automatically updated by insurers whenever any changes are made to a person’s policy, which includes cancellation. Additionally, this system could be used by law enforcement officers in lieu of other types of policy verification, like an insurance card or binder.
What SB 2292 Could Mean for Tennessee Residents
State legislators who support SB 2292 hope that passing this bill would significantly decrease the number of uninsured drivers in Tennessee. For residents who insist on driving without sufficient protection, this system could mean stricter enforcement. If residents are caught driving without liability insurance, they could be convicted of a Class C misdemeanor and fined up to $100, they may lose their driving privileges, and a STOP will be placed on their automobile preventing registration renewal.
After the passing of HB 2466 in April 2012, convictions for driving while uninsured have also gotten harsher. This bill stipulates that any drivers who are involved in an accident that results in serious bodily injury or death, and who are unable to provide proof of insurance, are to be arrested instead of receiving a citation. If SB 2292 is passed, these two bills could make a significant blow to uninsured-driver statistics in Tennessee.
For the average law-abiding motorist, however, this system could translate into greater convenience and a lower chance of being involved in an accident with an uninsured driver. Additionally, one positive assumption made by the Tennessee General Assembly Fiscal Review Committee is that the introduction of this system would encourage over 400,000 uninsured motorists to purchase protection. If so, this could lead to an extra $3.36 million in annual tax revenue, based on the current 2.5 percent tax on gross premiums.