Drivers owe the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles roughly $130 million in insurance fees that have gone uncollected as far back as 1993, according to an agency official.
Elizabeth Murphy, general counsel for the BMV, told lawmakers at a meeting of the Interim Study Committee on Insurance that uncollected fees have averaged anywhere from $11 million to $13 million annually over the past few years.
And so far this year, there have been $11.4 million in unpaid fees resulting from failures to provide proof of insurance.
She said that means that more than 300,000 people may currently be driving on suspended or expired licenses – if they are driving at all – because Hoosiers can’t renew their driver’s licenses until they pay any fees owed and can prove to the BMV that they have car insurance.
Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne, the committee’s vice chair, said the information was a “new wrinkle” in the committee’s discussion about uninsured motorists.
“That is an issue we need to deal with,” Lehman said.
Lehman said a report from the committee’s attorney and fiscal analyst shows that states with the lowest rates of uninsured motorists impose larger fines and revoke a vehicle owner’s license plates after a second driving offense. Indiana doesn’t revoke plates, which makes it easier for Hoosiers without a license to keep driving.
Lehman said he would like to see the committee recommend that Indiana enact similar laws.
Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, said he might support adding a license plate suspension as a penalty for multiple offenders, but would only support legislation that has clear guidelines for when someone’s plate can be revoked.
“I will not vote for a police officer to determine whether or not they can take someone’s plate,” Taylor said.
Lehman said while wants to see stricter punishments, he would recommend some kind of forgiveness system if offenders – whether first time offenders or multiple offenders – comply with BMV policies.
Steve Duff, a lobbyist for the Independent Insurance Agents of Indiana, said while his organization doesn’t think “there is a magic bullet” to decrease the number of uninsured motorists in the state, he would support “enhanced penalties.”
Duff talked about solutions that have worked in other states, including a policy in Missouri that can result in a person having four points put against their license if they violate financial responsibilities while in the state and laws in other states that allow courts to sentence multiple offenders to jail time – anywhere from 10 to 60 days.
Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, who chairs the committee, asked members to share their position on a solution with staff in the Legislative Services Agency – the nonpartisan legal staff for the General Assembly – so the committee can “start to get some closure” on the issue.
Holdman said the committee will continue to discuss uninsured motorists and other insurance issues “until we just kind of beat them to death” so members can come to a consensus and have closure on every issue.
The committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Sept. 4 in Room 233 of the Indiana Statehouse and will focus its discussion on lawsuit lending.