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Auto Insurance Law Ignored

February 13, 1996
By: Pablo Hernandez
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - If you're driving without car insurance, you'd better think again. Missouri's legislature is debating a number of new bills aimed at cracking down on uninsured drivers.

Under current law, the penalty for failing to have auto insurance is an infraction - the lowest penalty available in state law. The new bills would make it a misdemeanor with a minimum fine of $100. Subsequent violations or being involved in an accident would increase the fines, and uninsured drivers can also lose points or their driver's license.

"The real adjustment is to make the penalties for driving without insurance so hard that it is easier to get insurance," said Larry Thomason, D-Kennett, sponsor of one of the bills.

Current penalties have not deterred some uninsured drivers.

According to a 1994 report from Missouri's Insurance Department, an average of more than 11% of the vehicles in Missouri lack auto insurance as required by law.

"I received half a dozen of phone calls from people of my county having accidents with people with no insurance," said Rep. Bill Alter, R-St. Louis County and sponsor of one of the bills imposing tougher penalties.

Most of the sponsors said they had received requests from angry citizens to do something about the car insurance problem.

Their answer is six bills in the House and four in the Senate related to this issue.

But what about the driver who has car insurance, but can't quickly find the insurance card when stopped by a police officer because glove box is a complete mess?

In that case, the driver would receive a ticket. However, the ticket would be dismissed if the driver could provide proof of insurance by a specified date.