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New insurance requirements kick in on Tuesday

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Pedro Oliveira Jr.
May 30, 2010
— Lack of liability insurance can cost Wisconsin drivers up to $500 in fines starting Tuesday, when the state’s new car insurance requirements go into effect.

The states’ new law kicks in right after Memorial Day, and law enforcement officials are ready to begin enforcing the rule.


“Every time we ask for a license, we’ll be asking for insurance information,” said Joel Christensen, Elkhorn police chief.


Minimum insurance requirements for drivers in Wisconsin are:


-- $50,000 per person injured and $100,000 per accident.


-- $25,000 for property damage.


-- ?$100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident for uninsured or underinsured motorists.


“If a driver doesn’t have proof of insurance at the time of the stop, the driver can be issued a citation for failing to provide that proof,” Christensen said.


The citation for failure to carry insurance documents is $10. Uninsured drivers can be fined up to $500.


When stopped, drivers should be able to provide the card sent by insurance agencies at the time of purchase or renewal of a policy. The right card usually has writing that indicates it should be kept in the vehicle, Christensen said.


“Quite often, we run across motorists who have been involved in collisions who do not have insurance,” Christensen said.


The new law, he said, should provide extra incentive for motorists without insurance to get a policy, even if only the minimum required.


But that’s not what insurance agent Mike Spragia has seen.


Spragia, who works at Elkhorn’s American Family Insurance, said he has not seen a substantial increase in the number of locals seeking insurance because of Wisconsin’s new requirements.


Those who have come in seem to be shopping around for the best rates, but they are in no hurry, he said.


“Some people are saying, ‘I’ll come back when I absolutely have to have it,’” Spragia said.


The insurance agent said the industry estimates that about 15 percent of motorists in Wisconsin don’t have insurance. And based on his experience, Spragia said, those individuals are not likely to get insurance because of the new law.


“There’s just not a lot of incentive for getting it, even with a $500 fine,” he said.


“Some people just can’t afford it,” Spragia added. “It’s an irresponsible scenario, but there are a lot of people out there who just don’t get it.”


Some drivers count on their driving skills to keep them out of accidents, Spragia said. For someone who would pay $500 every six months for insurance, not buying insurance and risking a $500 ticket might seem like a good gamble.


“It’s not enough incentive for people to go and get the insurance,” he said. “And they will just continue to not have it.”



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