Tougher Penalties and Tracking of Uninsured Motorists in Tennessee
A set of laws meant to impose tougher penalties against uninsured motorists in Tennessee passed its second hurdle recently, getting the laws one step closer to a debate in the state House of Representatives. With over one million uninsured drivers in Tennessee alone, these new restrictions would impose the most aggressive punishments to date for drivers who operate on the roads without insurance.
Current Uninsured Motorist Law
In 1977, Tennessee passed a law that required proof of insurance for drivers and that all drivers carry a minimum amount of liability insurance. The current numbers are $25,000 for one injury or death, $50,000 for all injuries or death and $15,000 for property damage. However, the penalty for violating the law is only a misdemeanor fine of $100. As a result, the chief sponsor of the new proposed uninsured motorist law reported that there were over 40,000 traffic accidents last year alone where one or more of the drivers involved in the accident were uninsured.
Tennessee’s Proposed Law
Tennessee currently ranks sixth in the nation for its number of uninsured drivers. Over 20 percent, more than one million motorists, of its driving population is uninsured. The Tennessee House Government Operations Committee passed House Bill 0606, which would impose the following penalties on uninsured drivers:
- Increase the fine from $100 to $250 for the misdemeanor offense of violating the proof of insurance law;
- Create a statewide auto insurance verification program that would track uninsured motorists through vehicle registration;
- Allow county clerks to suspend driver registration if the driver does not have the proper proof of insurance and install a $300 reinstatement fee; and
- Allow Tennessee police officers to tow vehicles of drivers that fail to have proof of insurance.
The bill has been named in honor of James Lee Atwood Jr., who was killed last year by an uninsured motorist. Roderick Maggett, 24, was pulled over early in the day last July and cited for not having proof of insurance. However, police did not have the authority to detain Mr. Maggett’s vehicle so they let him drive away after giving him the citation. Seven hours later he crashed into and killed Mr. Atwood, subsequently being cited for vehicular manslaughter and a second violation of driving without insurance.
Purpose of the Law
Mr. Atwood’s mother testified in front of the Tennessee House Insurance and Banking Committee in support of the bill, saying that “these lawbreakers who don’t carry insurance…who just walk away with no consequences…continue because they are fully aware that the current law is weak, and they won’t be held accountable for their actions.” Research has shown that states that have implemented a tracking system that has been proposed for Tennessee have mostly seen a decrease in the number of uninsured drivers after the implementation, and the sponsors of this bill hope to see the same.
Call a Nashville Lawyer Now
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident with an uninsured motorist in the Nashville area, let the experienced lawyers at Calhoun Law, PLC help. Call or contact the office today for a private and free review of your claims.