By Russell Hixson
STILLWATER, Okla. —
The state of Oklahoma is losing $8.8 million a year in premium taxes from drivers who fail to obtain state-required auto insurance.
“When people break the law, and don’t pay their fair share, it hurts all of us,” said Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak. “Half of that money would go into the General Revenue Fund, helping schools, social services and other vital programs. The rest would help provide pensions for the state’s firefighters and law enforcement officers. Those sorely underfunded systems could really use this money to make sure Oklahoma heroes receive the retirements they deserve.”
Stillwater AAA insurance agent Todd Thorton said uninsured driving is a problem in Payne County. He said approximately one in four drivers do not have auto insurance.
He said one of the main reasons drivers don’t have car insurance is because they are in the country illegally. To avoid getting caught, they purchase cars with valid tags and sell them as soon as they expire.
Uninsured driving affects everyone, Thorton said, as it causes rates to go up. Many drivers opt to pay extra for uninsured motorist coverage on top of their regular coverage.
“The responsible car owners are paying the burden,” Thorton said.
Thorton also shed light on another problem: Under-insured drivers. He said some drivers, mostly teenagers and young adults, are on tight budgets and go for the minimum required insurance. Thorton said this is a gamble that can affect someone for the rest of their life.
One of his recent clients got in a wreck. His insurance liability was $100,000 but the costs were higher. Thorton said attorneys forced the client to sell his Arizona home and pay $50,000 out of his own pocket.
Even worse, should a young adult or teen get in an accident and kill or permanently disable someone, their earnings could be garnished for decades.
“You are looking at a lifetime of maintenance,” Thorton said.
Stillwater police have taken notice of uninsured driving and, in an effort to crack down, have started a new policy. Uninsured driver’s vehicles can be impounded by the police and are not released until proof of insurance is provided.
Thorton said he has received calls from frustrated drivers with impounded cars because of the new policy.
“It’s a great motivator,” Thorton said. “It’s going to help clean (uninsured drivers) off the streets.”