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 insurance.
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 ChecksA 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.
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