By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle in the state of Alabama without auto insurance.
Despite that fact, an estimated 22% of Alabama motorists defy Alabama law every day by operating motor vehicles on Alabama’s roadways without having any car insurance at all. Only five states have more uninsured motorists as a percentage of drivers on the road. The ever present hazard of driving a car on an Alabama roadway surrounded by so many uninsured motorists drives up the insurance rates of Alabama motorists who do have auto insurance and many motorists choose to carry uninsured motorist riders and comprehensive coverage policies in case one of those many uninsured motorists collide with them on our roads.
The state of Alabama is cracking down on uninsured motorists. Starting on January 1, 2013, the Alabama law enforcement community will have a new tool to quickly identify those uninsured motorists. The new Alabama Online Insurance Verification System (OIVS) will go online that day allowing law enforcement officers to immediately identify the insurance status of every vehicle at any time. The OIVS system will also be used by county license plate issuing authorities prior to when motorists register their vehicles or when they renew their license plates.
Using OIVS the officer in the field transmits the insurance company’s NAIC number, the policy number, the vehicle identification number, and the verification date directly to the insurance company’s computers. The officer gets back either a “confirmed” or a “nonconfirmed” response.
Currently some motorists will buy six months of auto coverage, get the proof of insurance card, and then lapse the coverage by not making the payment. The computer system will be able to easily identify those motorists as well as those who use home printers to attempt to fabricate insurance cards.
Alabama law requires that every motorist maintain liability coverage. The minimum requirement is $25,000 in liability insurance for the death or injury of one person, $50,000 in liability for death or injury of two or more people, and $25,000 in liability coverage for the damage of another person’s property. This is probably not enough coverage to protect your assets if you are responsible for a significant accident; but it is the minimum that Alabama law requires. Meet with your insurance agent to discuss the appropriate level of coverage for your individual circumstances. Not every insurance carrier will insure every motorist; but there are insurance carriers who specialize in nonstandard and/or high risk motorists so everyone in Alabama should be able to get auto insurance at some price.
Currently the penalty for driving without auto insurance in Alabama is a fine of up to $500 and/or a 45-day driver’s license suspension. For subsequent offenses the punishment is a fine of up to $1,000 and/or a six month suspension driver’s license. Between the fines, the court costs, the penalties, the time spent in a court room, and the potential of a devastating personal judgment against your assets and your future earnings auto insurance is a smart and necessary investment.