Road hazards

Credit: Shannon Cornman

because almost one-quarter of all Oklahoma drivers are uninsured,
according to statistics compiled in 2009 by the Insurance Research
Council. Among the 50 states, Oklahoma is tied with Tennessee and
Florida for third place, with 24 percent of all drivers uninsured. Only
New Mexico (26 percent) and Mississippi (28 percent) have higher numbers
of uninsured drivers.

Insurance Commissioner John Doak said the financial burden created by
those uninsured motorists is the most frequent source of complaints he

“Folks are
upset. Paying higher premiums is a result of fewer folks having
insurance,” he said. “The good taxpaying citizens — the folks who carry
insurance — are tired of getting in accidents with folks who have no

Doak noted that one difficulty in
enforcing the law that requires all drivers to have insurance is that
Oklahoma’s penalties for driving without insurance may not be strict

“There is a school of thought out there that folks will drive
[without insurance]
and then they’ll pay the penalty,” he said. “The fine needs to be more
than the cost of the insurance, or they’ll see how long they can get
away with it.”

said the first-time fine for driving without insurance in Maine or
Massachusetts is $3,000. In both of those states, the Insurance Research
Council data shows that only 4 percent of drivers are uninsured, the
lowest percentages in the country.

that stalled this year sought to reduce the number of uninsured drivers
by providing statewide access to computerized insurance records and
allowing law enforcement officers to check for current insurance at any
time, rather than only during traffic stops.

Under the failed measure, officers would have been able to ticket and tow vehicles for lack of insurance.

of our main objectives is to make sure the system is made available to
law enforcement statewide,” Doak said. “Right now, there are only very
few law enforcement operations around the state that have access to that

suggestion to check for insurance verification stickers has been the
installation of license-plate-reading cameras along Oklahoma roads and
highways. It’s an idea that Doak opposes.

“I think that’s an intrusion into our liberties and being able to be on the roads,” he said.

John Doak

like it or not, Doak said, tough economic decisions facing less
affluent Oklahomans could be the reason behind a portion of the high
number of uninsured drivers.

are some families in Oklahoma for whom it’s difficult to get a job and
pay for food for their family,” he said. “Then that hard decision comes:
Do you need to drive to work [and] put food on your table, or do you
buy car insurance?”

States with highest annual average car insurance premiums

Louisiana $2,536

Oklahoma $2,047

Michigan $2,013

West Virginia $2,002

Washington, D.C. $1,886

Montana $1,856

Rhode Island $1,830

Wyoming $1,732

California $1,709 Georgia $1,694


C.G. Niebank

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