Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

Papers, please.


Welcome to Wisconsin. Please have your papers handy at all times.

Starting today in traffic stops across Wisconsin, the police can now ask you for proof of auto insurance if you’re driving. If you don’t have the proof of insurance, you’ll get a $10 ticket. All part of the misguided attempt to make sure every driver on Wisconsin’s roads have insurance.

The fine for not having your proof of insurance, your papers, with you at all times is $10. No, you can’t just wrap the $10 around your driver license when they pull you over. This isn’t Illinois.

I have insurance, of course. Mine costs a little more because of a tragic lead foot condition, but I have insurance. I just don’t know where I have the “proof.”

Of course, I won’t be alone with higher insurance rates. With the change in the auto insurance requirement also came an increase in the minimum required coverage.

As of last January 1st, auto insurance policies must cover $15,000 of property damage, $50,000 for the injury or death of one person and $100,000 for more than one person. The amounts were $10,000, $25,000 and $50,000 respectively.

Higher minimum insurance requirements mean higher insurance premiums. About 14% of Wisconsin’s motorists are uninsured, according to the Wisconsin Insurance Alliance. If the goal of mandatory auto insurance is to push a significant percentage of the uninsured onto the insurance rolls, than surely increasing the cost of a minimum insurance premium runs counter to that goal.

The fine for not having auto insurance can be up to $500. The uninsured may be willing to take the risk of being caught without insurance given that the insurance policies may be close to that number, or even higher, especially for new, young drivers.

Even as the insurance requirements become mandatory on every driver, some drivers newly seeking insurance will run into higher rates because the insurance companies will look at their lack of previous insurance as higher risk. Add in the fragile economy, and we may actually see higher rates of uninsured motorists rather than lower.

If the goal was to increase the number of insured on the roads and spread the insurance risk, than why did the legislature increase the mandatory minimums?

One answer may be in whom ultimately benefits.

New Hampshire is now the last state that does not* have mandatory auto insurance. No word yet when the “live free or die” state will boycott Wisconsin.

*see comment
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