We at Chicken-Fried News are scratching our heads. The 2008 legislative session has only just begun, and already a voice of reason can be heard from our wise lawmakers at 23rd Street and Lincoln Boulevard.
A House subcommittee recently passed a proposed bill that would limit insurance awards for uninsured motorists, according to The Associated Press. That's right: This law would mean that drivers without insurance could not collect pain and suffering damages from a wreck, although those uninsured could still get help for medical and property costs along with lost income. A previous attempt to impound vehicles driven by those without proof of liability insurance reportedly stalled last session.
"It's just common sense: People should not be rewarded for driving without insurance," said the bill's author, state Rep. George Faught, R-Muskogee, in a released statement.
"Instead, our current system financially punishes law-abiding citizens who carry auto insurance. House Bill 3380 will begin to bring some sanity to the system."
If an uninsured motorist is hit by a drunk driver, medical costs and car damage could still be paid out, Faught said.
"But there's no reason to allow uninsured drivers to reap a jackpot award for vague 'pain and suffering' claims," Faught said.
How many uninsured drivers are on Oklahoma roads? While Road & Travel Magazine recently estimated that 15 percent don't have insurance, other estimates claim as many as one-third may be uninsured. One insurance adjustor told CFN the number is closer to 40 percent. Just hearing such a staggering number could drive law-abiding citizens to fits of road rage.
Which brings up another question: If you didn't have insurance, don't you think you'd try to avoid being in an accident? CFN's intern, Bucky, was recently hit by a driver with no insurance, but that didn't stop the uninsured driver from filing a claim against him.
Faught said Oklahoma's current laws regarding uninsured motorists don't have any teeth. Just like Bucky's grandma.
"Uninsured drivers get to save on premiums, avoid liability, and still collect large awards if they are in an accident," Faught said. "It's time we made the system fairer for law-abiding citizens than people who refuse to obey the law."
In the meantime, keep an eye out for the other guy. And we'll keep an eye on HB 3380, which now advances to full committee. Stay safe out there.