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Proof of Insurance Law May Be Delayed

Legislation: Bill was passed without funds for DMV to enforce the new requirement and is unlikely to go in effect until middle of next year, officials say.

November 04, 1996| From Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — A new law requiring California drivers to show proof of auto insurance coverage before registering their cars is fraught with problems and unlikely to go into effect until the middle of next year--nearly six months after its original start-up date.

The law affects nearly 20 million motorists who drive some 26 million registered vehicles.

Government and insurance industry sources say the legislation contained no money to pay for the Department of Motor Vehicles to enforce and verify the provisions of the new law, sponsored by Democratic Assemblywoman Jackie Speier of Burlingame. The DMV estimates that the law will cost about $52 million over the first three years.

The time frame also is difficult: The DMV usually mails 60-day advance notices to remind drivers to renew their registrations. That means renewals and proof forms for the period beginning Jan. 1 normally would have been received Friday by thousands of motorists.

But none have been mailed because the revised forms and procedures haven't been decided. Among the questions: How do drivers offer evidence of coverage? With a copy of a policy? By a signed statement under penalty of perjury? If the proof is invalid, how is the registration revoked?

Currently, California drivers are required to purchase automobile insurance but they don't need to carry proof of it in their cars.

The new law, scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, requires them to carry proof and show it to a law enforcement officer on demand, and to present it to the DMV at the annual registration. Those who violate the law face a $500 to $1,000 fine for a first offense, and a $2,000 fine for a second offense.

Speier and Gov. Pete Wilson, who signed the bill, said the law would cut down on the number of uninsured motorists. But insurance companies said the bill was poorly constructed, and the DMV said it would prove difficult to enforce.

"It addresses the symptom but not the problem itself," said DMV spokesman Bill Madison. "It doesn't do anything to provide affordable insurance to people who will now be required to have insurance. It doesn't preclude owners from registering with us an invalid proof of insurance certificate. There is no reporting mechanism."

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