Well, it’s important to note that Alabama has its own mandatory insurance program and, come Jan. 1, the cost of not obeying that law is about to go up — a lot.
Alabama law mandates that automobile owners carry liability insurance. However, estimates from the Insurance Research Council say nearly 22 percent of Alabama vehicles — more than 1-in-5 — are not covered.
The law is easy to get around. Owners buy insurance and get an insurance card to show when they buy a tag or when they are stopped for a traffic offense. However, once they get the card, they can stop paying the premium and, by default, their coverage is canceled.
According to the state Insurance Department, one of the most frequent complaints involves accidents in which one driver is uninsured.
In 2012, the state Legislature addressed this situation with requirements that law enforcement and state officials check insurance company records through the Revenue Department’s online insurance verification system — a quick process that immediately determines if the vehicle is covered. If it is not, the fine and other penalties rise significantly — so much so that it would have been cheaper to buy the insurance.
Some will howl that the state should not require a resident to buy a product and that this is just one more example of big government intruding into the lives of the people. To them, the fact that it is Montgomery instead of Washington is immaterial.
On one point, they are correct. It does not matter if it is a state law or a national law. It is a legitimate function of government to protect the innocent from the irresponsibility of others. Requiring drivers to insure their vehicles and penalizing those who do not is one way to do this.
It is also a legitimate function of government to require individuals to have health insurance so that innocent taxpayers do not have to pay for their care when they appear in the emergency room.
How to accomplish this should be debated. Whether to do it should not.