Listen to this article

Without practical enforcement, even the wisest law can be a joke.

When motorists get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, they think about many things that have little to do with the safe operation of that vehicle. The mind positively reels at the range of subjects that can fly through one’s head while people, driving while thinking, try to get where they want to go.

But it’s fair to say there is one subject that rarely comes up, whether other motorists are driving insured vehicles.

That is, of course, unless there’s an accident. Then insurance is a top priority because having it can make a world of difference in incidents where there is property damage and personal injury.

Illinois law requires motorists to have insurance coverage. But the fact is that too many motorists, for a variety of reasons, do not comply. In doing so, they pose great financial risks both to themselves, their passengers and other motorists.

The practice is as reckless as it is common, and that’s why prudent motorists purchase both uninsured and underinsured motorists coverage as part of their overall insurance coverage.

But there’s some good news on the uninsured motorist front. Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White’s office has instituted a new program that dramatically improves oversight.

The Illinois Insurance Verification System automatically verifies a vehicle owner’s insurance status twice a year.

The new system is a far cry from the old one, which wasn’t really an oversight system at all. The office randomly checked about 3 percent of the 10 million registered vehicles in Illinois.

That was not an enforcement system, it was an honor system. Needless to say, noncompliance was as rampant as real enforcement was rare.

The new program already has revealed the depth of the problem. Since it began July 1, news reports indicate the state has identified 7,000 uninsured motorists and suspended the registration of nearly 2,700 vehicles.

Under the program, when state officials identify noncompliance, they send a letter to the violator that includes instructions on how to buy insurance or, alternatively, how to prove they are insured.

In the event of noncompliance, the state suspends the vehicle’s registration. To be reinstated, the violator must pay a $100 fine.

The unfortunate fact is that too many motorists live life on the edge. They refuse to purchase insurance, and they ignore warnings that their vehicle’s registration will be uninsured.

Their plan is to hope nothing goes wrong, and one not need to be a genius to know that things do go wrong all the time, sometimes with horrific consequences.

That’s why this stepped-up oversight is a sound way to go. An even better one would be to figure out a way to disable uninsured vehicles in a way that guarantees they do not pose a threat to the traveling public. That, alas, is not currently in the cards.

Trending Videos