Mandatory insurance law is a first step

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 20, 2000

Mississippi lawmakers have taken a step toward making our roads safer, but we still have a long way to go.

The mandatory insurance bill headed to Gov. Ronnie Musgrove for final approval requires all motorists to carry liability insurance on their vehicles — a much-needed measure.

As proponents have said, the compulsory liability insurance law helps place responsibility for the costs of accidents on the people who cause them, not just the victims.

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By enacting the law — which seems likely given Gov. Musgrove’s history of support for the measure — the state hopes to spread the cost of insurance to all motorists — not just those paying an average of $20 more per year (insurance industry estimates) to carry insurance to protect their vehicles in case of accidents involving uninsured motorists.

Under this measure, all motorists should carry adequate insurance to protect themselves in case of an automobile accident.

And while the law does establish a system of fines and penalties for drivers caught without proof of insurance — up to a $1,000 fine –&160;it stumbles over the same obstacles that most compulsory insurance laws face, particularly enforcement.

The reality of the situation is that without some type of strict requirement — for instance, no driver’s licenses issued without proof of insurance — the likelihood of the insurance being mandatory is, well, about as likely as everyone driving the speed limit — all the time.

If Mississippi is serious about forcing its motorists to carry liability insurance, then it must get serious about creating a streamlined, effective system to manage and enforce the law.

Passing a bill is an important first step. Now, we need to fine tune the law to make it work — well.