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More about Wisconsin Auto Insurance

In another article (Wisconsin Auto Insurance Rates), we looked at the decision of the Wisconsin state government to double the minimum liability insurance requirement. It had been $25,000 per individual injured and $50,000 for multiple claimants in a single traffic accident. This doubled to $50,000 and $100,000 respectively. There was a general feeling this would push an increasing number of the poor into driving without insurance. And, as was predicted at the time, one of the results of this change in the law has been an increase in the premiums. In some ZIP code areas, the rates have gone up by as much as 40%. This has put a lot more pressure on family budgets around the state.


At the same time this law was going through the state legislature, a second bill was produced which increases the pressure on law enforcement to check whether drivers are carrying valid insurance. This is a logical development. There is little point in making it mandatory to carry liability coverage if there is no effective enforcement. So, as from June 1st, all drivers in Wisconsin must carry proof of a valid insurance policy in their vehicles.

Writing this in May, the estimate is that about 14% of all drivers in Wisconsin fail to carry insurance. It is a depressing thought but, in national terms, this is quite a low percentage. Although most states have a mandatory insurance requirement, there is poor enforcement and whether through real poverty or a stubborn refusal to comply, some states have relatively high numbers of uninsured drivers on the road. So will this change in the law produce a flood of people suddenly insuring their vehicles? Probably not in the short term! No matter what the law says, people with a choice between eating and insuring their vehicles will almost always choose to eat.

When interviewed on their proposed approach to the new law, local police authorities have said they will start out with education in mind. On all routine stops, drivers will be asked for proof of insurance. If none is forthcoming, they will be told of the law and advised they cannot legally drive away. But the police will not call for the tow truck during the first weeks of June. Think of it as warnings rather than citations. With the coming of summer, the policy will change and citations will be issued for failure to carry. In all traffic accidents, all the drivers involved will be asked for proof of insurance.

The penalty for failure to carry proof of auto insurance is low at only $10, but the fine for failure to have a valid policy of insurance is up to $500 for each offense. Because it is unlawful to drive without a policy, more vehicles will be towed and will only be released when the charges are paid and proof of insurance is provided. This inconvenience will threaten many families that depend on a vehicle and more may make the effort to insure. The alternative when the vehicle is old and battered is simply to buy another cheap and disposable vehicle and do without valid Wisconsin auto insurance. Even cheap car insurance is often too expensive for those out of work and on the poverty line.

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