By Texas State Senator Royce West
As we move into the peak of the holiday season, scurrying about, in and out of malls and shopping centers, nothing would dampen your holiday spirits more than having your automobile towed. But that’s what will happen if you live in any of several Metroplex cities – including Dallas – if you don’t have automobile insurance.
Sharing comes with the season, so in the holiday spirit, my gift to you is three reasons why it makes more sense than ever to be able to prove financial responsibility upon demand if you are in an accident or pulled over by law enforcement.
Reason #1 – the game is over. As of October 2, Texas rolled out it’s long-awaited vehicle insurance verification program. For those who only kept coverages for a few months and cancelled after annual inspection or license tag renewal, those days are over. Now, if you are stopped by the police, officers will be able instantly – by running your license or vehicle identification number (VIN) – to confirm if a valid insurance policy is in effect on your automobile.
In 2005, the Texas Legislature passed a law establishing the vehicle insurance verification program that is designed specifically to address the estimated 1in 5 drivers (about four million) who illegally operate an automobile on Texas’ roadways without the mandated liability insurance coverage.
It is a joint venture involving the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI), the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the Texas Department of Information Resources. Texas joins about 30 other states with similar programs. Insurers will tell you that uninsured motorists drive up rates for the insured, causing nearly a billion dollars annually in uncovered damages.
Besides, it will save you money! Just think of how many more presents you can buy for the $175 – $350 you’ll have to shell out for a first time, no-insurance offense, or the $350 – $1,000 fine if you’re caught more than once.
The second reason is that those costs can run up even more. In 2003, Texas also passed into law the Driver Responsibility Program (DRP). In short, the logic is that bad drivers should help pay for the accidents that land victims in emergency rooms across the state, often without health coverage.
So in addition to the ticket, a no-insurance conviction puts drivers in the DRP where they are assessed a $250 annual surcharge for each of three years, or face license suspension for failure to pay.
To complete this trilogy of reasons to insure, beginning Jan. 1, 2009, Dallas will join DeSoto, Irving, Red Oak, Mesquite, Garland, Grand Prairie, Plano and other Texas cities in towing the autos of drivers unable to produce proof of financial responsibility. Dallas’ current policy allows an uninsured car to be towed only if it has been involved in an accident.
Let’s see, that’s $300 for no insurance, $250 for the surcharge, $95 for the wrecker, another $40 for one day of impoundment. On average, liability coverage alone costs less than $50 a month. Think you can’t afford insurance? You really can’t afford not to. A fourth reason to insure – it’s the law!