Proposal stiffens penalty for driving without insurance

Every day, Deputy Dan Burke of the Moffat County Sheriff Department writes up at least one motorist for driving without proof of insurance.

On a first offense, the ticketed driver is ordered by the court to pay a $100 fine. That's less money than many drivers' monthly insurance payment.

But a new proposal from Gov. Bill Owens will stiffen the penalty for driving without auto insurance.

Last Wedesday, Owens announced a plan to toughen the penalties for uninsured motorists by increasing the fine for the first offense from the current mandatory $100 fine to a $500 fine. Also, the driver's license would be suspended until evidence of insurance was filed.

"Under the current law, it is often less expensive to pay the fine than to buy insurance," Owens said in a press release. "What we're proposing gives motorists a stronger incentive to purchase and maintain insurance."

That's bad news for uninsured Moffat County drivers, and local insurance agents estimate there are quite a few of them out there.

About one in five motorists here are uninsured, estimated E.J. Bunk of Farmers Insurance Group. But Bunk is at the conservative end of the spectrum. Marv Draper of Draper Insurance Group estimated one in three drivers don't have auto insurance. Sue Lyster of Farm Bureau Insurance said as many as 35 to 40 percent of drivers may not have insurance.

If Draper and Lyster are right, that means when Moffat County motorists are involved in an accident, there's at least a one in three chance the other driver won't have car insurance.

That has become a bigger problem since the Colorado Legislature replaced no-fault insurance laws with a new tort system. Under the new system, the at-fault driver is responsible for paying damage and medical bills other drivers incur in an accident.

"These are needed reforms," Owens said. "The vast majority of Colorado motorists, who pay premiums year after yea

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