The same dilemma Obama described exists today en masse on Texas roadways. Texas law requires drivers to have insurance, but in practice, for a variety of reasons, about 25% of drivers don't have any according to a recent test by the Department of Public Safety in Austin. Reported AP last week ("Sizable number of Texas drivers lack insurance," July 29):
Those ticketed for no insurance who are truly impoverished quickly slide down a slippery slope from which it can be nearly impossible to extract oneself. They face the immediate impound of the car they likely need to get to work, with an expensive impound fee to get it back. Then, of course, the no-insurance ticket is expensive - typically several hundred dollars - and it also triggers a separate fee owed to DPS of $250 per year for THREE Years (ironically called the Driver Responsibility Fee). If you don't pay, you can't renew your driver license. A traffic stop while driving without a license, of course, also results in a huge ticket and another fat DPS fee.
A 60-day pilot project testing the new TexasSure program, which allows law enforcement personnel via computer to verify coverage status when they stop a motorist, focused on Travis County. During the test which is expected to end soon, Texas Department of Public Safety troopers stopped and ticketed uninsured drivers.
So far, 25.5 percent of 5,012 drivers stopped in Travis County and small portions of nearby Williamson and Hays counties since June 2, did not have auto insurance.
"The numbers show that Texas has an even larger number of uninsured drivers than we had realized," said Mark Hanna, spokesman for the Insurance Council of Texas, in a story Tuesday in the online editions of the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News.
The Council has been monitoring the state's new auto insurance verification program.
"Troopers tell us that some areas of the state may have more than half of their drivers uninsured, and that's scary news for everyone else on our roadways," Hanna said.
This spring, the minimum amount of liability insurance Texas drivers are required to have, increased for the first time in 22 years. Hanna said he didn't think the higher requirement was a factor in the lack of coverage because the effect on premiums was "minimal."
During the pilot project, drivers who said they were insured but weren't carrying proof of insurance weren't issued citations if troopers, using the new technology, validated their insurance coverage.
DPS plans to issue a report of its findings when the pilot is completed.A portion of the vehicle registration fee is paying for a $7 million contract with HDI solutions Inc.
The result of these expensive and draconian measures has been utterly predictable: Today more than 10% of adult Texans have an outstanding arrest warrant, most of them for failing to pay tickets or the misnamed DPS Driver Responsibility Fee. This "solution" is only going to make matters worse--more impoverished people getting more tickets and more fees they can't pay while officers spend more time impounding cars and getting these otherwise peaceful citizens off the roads while spending even less time making the public safe from actual criminals.
My own preferred solution to the crisis of uninsured drivers is as simple as it is unlikely to pass in Texas anytime soon: Use the gas tax to implement pay at the pump insurance for minimum liability so that every driver becomes automatically covered via no-fault insurance on terms more closely regulated by the state. As an added bonus, since companies would all be paid the same for every driver, they would be forced to compete on quality of service instead of striated pricing schemes.
Obama was right that Hillary Clinton's forced insurance plan wouldn't have worked had it been implemented. How do we know? We've already witnessed the identical failure in the auto insurance arena.