The Woodward News

January 2, 2014

Teeth added to state's insurance law for drivers

Rachael Van Horn
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — Several new laws were enacted over the 2013 legislative session.

Some, such as the state’s sweeping changes to worker’s compensation, gained instant buzz from the public while others sort of, well, didn’t.

One of those that didn’t get a lot of media coverage was the “Oklahoma Temporary Motorist Liability Plan.”

This is a law that puts a little sting in the bite for those who violate Oklahoma’s Compulsory Insurance Law by driving without insurance.

The law was signed by Gov. Mary Fallin in late spring and due to go into effect today, said Lt. Chip Collins of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Troop I.

Otherwise known as HB1792, the idea is to give law enforcement more choices when dealing with drivers who fail to provide insurance verification. But it also provides a new state run fund that temporarily provides the vehicle with liability insurance while the driver does the work of getting into compliance. The state gives the driver 10 days to do this.

Within that time period, the driver must show proof of valid coverage and pay the cost of the temporary coverage back to the fund, according to the text of the law.

That means instead of just getting ticketed, law enforcement officers can now, at their discretion, seize the license plate of the vehicle and have it towed or one or the other.

 In addition, there is a new $125 fee over and above what a driver might pay for just a ticket. That fee is divided between the agencies that handle the offense and the new, administrative burden associated with the law, the text of the law read.

So, let’s say you have been cruising along for a year without insurance and you are stopped by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

According to Lt. Collins, law enforcement can seize the license plate of your vehicle, cite you for driving without insurance and have the vehicle towed, if they decide the offense is egregious enough and warrants it.

On the other hand, Collins said, if you forgot to pay your insurance a week ago, that is probably not going to happen to you.

“If people are paying regularly for their insurance this is not going to be a problem,” he said. “When we run your tag, we will know if you have coverage. But maybe you were late, the insurance company will make a note for us to rely on the verification in the car.”

But back to the habitual offender.

According to the text of the law, if the driver does not have coverage but is otherwise legal and the vehicle is able to be driven, law enforcement can release the driver.

At that point, the driver has 10 days to provide proof of insurance to the sheriff’s department of whichever county the citation was received.

That’s because the sheriff’s department is where that driver will find his license tag and get it back, the law states.

During the 10 days, the driver can drive to work, for instance using the citation as his license plate. During that time, starting from the moment the license plate was seized, the vehicle will become covered by compulsory insurance issued by the state and paid for temporarily by the Temporary Motorist Liability plan.

This plan is a fund set up by the State Insurance Department and funded through fines paid by uninsured motorists who are cited for the offense.

When the driver returns to the Sheriff’s Department to retrieve his tag, he must pay for the cost of the temporary insurance, the $125 fee and the citation, which can be up to $250.

Sheriff’s departments are only required to keep tags for 90 days. If a driver never returns for his tag, Oklahoma tag agents are prohibited from reissuing a tag for that vehicle until all the fines, fees related to the seizer of the license plate have been paid, the law reads.