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16 February 2012

Kraus: Uninsured Motorists

Earlier this year, I filed Senate Bill 696, which increases fees, fines and penalties for uninsured motorists. For years, I have heard from one constituent or another who was hit by an uninsured motorist and found out how devastating it can be.

In doing research for the bill, I found some incredible statistics. In the year from July 2010 to July 2011, there were more than 6,000 collisions in Missouri involving uninsured motorists. In the calendar year 2010, the state issued 22,000 citations to uninsured motorists. Overall, 14 percent of Missouri drivers are uninsured. The Missouri State Auditor estimates that it costs those of us with insurance more than $90 million per year to cover uninsured motorists.

I decided it was time to crack down on this growing problem. I asked our Senate research staff to summarize all the laws related to uninsured drivers, and then I set about making them tougher.

Under SB 696, anyone caught driving while uninsured would have his or her license suspended. The measure also raises the reinstatement fee for first, second, and subsequent offenses. It also doubles the suspension period for second offenses.

Currently the court can fine an uninsured driver up to $300 and sentence him or her to jail for up to 15 days for a second or subsequent offense. SB 696 adds a mandatory $1,000 fine for a second offense, and a $5,000 fine for a third offense.

Finally, SB 696 adds two new impound capabilities. If it passes, courts will be able to impound the vehicle of an uninsured driver for up to six months on a second or subsequent offense. In addition, an officer would be able to order the impounding of a vehicle of an uninsured driver who is involved in an accident.

SB 696 was heard in the Small Business, Insurance and Industry Committee this week. There was no testimony in opposition to the bill. My hope is that it will pass out of committee next week, and be heard on the floor in the near future. My intent for this legislation is to reduce the number of motorists who are uninsured and to limit the impact those uninsured drivers have on all Missourians.

District Days

We are still receiving RSVPs for our District Days on March 21 and March 27. Next week, the Capitol Report will focus on our activities for those days. I would ask you share that e-mail with anyone you know in the district who may want to attend.

New District 8 Staff Member

Linda Vogt, who has worked with me both in the House and Senate, has announced her retirement effective March 1. Linda has been a valuable asset to this office and to the residents of the 8th District. I know you will join me in wishing Linda a safe and healthy retirement.

This week, we welcomed Megan Wolfe as our new Legislative Assistant. Megan had worked as both an intern and an employee in Rep. Mike McGhee’s office in the Missouri House. Megan is energetic and ready to help in any way she can. She can be reached at megan{dot}wolfe{at}senate{dot}mo{dot}gov.

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