Oklahoma officials are upping their game when it comes to
dealing with the problem of uninsured motorists through a series of public
service announcements combined with checkpoints. They hope these steps will
deter drivers from getting out on the road without the proper liability
At a recent checkpoint in Tulsa the Oklahoma police towed 11
vehicles and wrote dozens of citations to motorists who were driving without
the proper car insurance. The checkpoint lasted for four hours and a total of
60 citations were written, 31 of those were related to lack of insurance and
for failure to provide proof of insurance.
In a press release John D. Doak, the state’s insurance
commissioner, said the checkpoint was “very enlightening.” He added that the
traffic stops also included a woman cited for “driving under suspension” who
said she “couldn’t remember the last time she had auto insurance.” Doak says
this points to a “major problem on Oklahoma roadways,”
The rate of uninsured drivers in Oklahoma has been higher
than average in recent years. In 2007 Oklahoma had the fourth-highest rate of
uninsured drivers in the nation at 24 percent. This translates into 1 out of
every 4 drivers on the road being uninsured, or underinsured. The problem had
not improved by 2009 when the rate had only dropped to 23.9 percent. This put
Oklahoma in a tie with Tennessee for the third-highest rate of uninsured
drivers in the country. In 2009, the nationwide average was 13.9 percent, a
full 10 percent less than Oklahoma.
Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz said in a statement “The
amount of citations issued this weekend was as impressive as it was disturbing,
the fact that so many motorists are operating on our public roadways without
insurance is an alarming trend and a quality-of-life issue.”
Fines Can Be Steep
In Oklahoma, the maximum fine for driving without coverage
runs around $525, which includes a $250 fine and $275 fee for license
reinstatement. This does not include any towing charges that might be incurred.
Maximum penalties can include a 30-day jail sentence.
Like Iowa, California and Pennsylvania, Oklahoma allows the
police to tow the cars of uninsured drivers on their first offense. In
addition, Oklahoma is a no pay, no play state which means that uninsured
drivers are banned from recovering damages for pain and suffering after a
crash, even if they were not at fault.
New Legislation Hoped to Widen Insurance Checks
A new piece of legislation, which had hoped to
broaden authorities power when stopping cars for suspected lack of insurance
coverage has recently stalled in the state house. This bill would have taken
advantage of the states insurance database, allowing police to instantly verify
whether a vehicle had the proper insurance coverage. The bill would have
allowed police to check a vehicle in the database and pull the driver over for
that reason alone. Currently the law only allows Oklahoma police to verify insurance
status after they have pulled over the vehicle for another violation or if they
were in a crash.