Put Accountability into the Financial Responsibility Law James Lee Atwood, Jr Law
Both houses of the Tennessee General Assembly have passed the most aggressive package of penalties against the state's uninsured drivers since mandatory liability insurance was mandated in 1977.
* Raise the misdemeanor fine for violating Tennessee's financial responsibility (proof of insurance) law from $100 to $300, starting July 1. TN Rep. William Lamberth, (R) Cottontown/Sumner County, said that would raise $2.8 million in state revenue.
* Create a rising schedule of fines on drivers determined to be uninsured through the verification program. The maximum penalty would be suspension of their registrations and seizure of their tags, with a $300 reinstatement fee.
* Give law enforcement agencies the discretion to tow the vehicles of drivers cited for violation of the financial responsibility law.
"We had over 40,000 crashes last year, in which one party or the other, or sometimes both, were uninsured, so this is a significant update to our code," said TN Rep. William Lamberth, (R) Sumner County, the chief sponsor of the house bill.
As a result, Tennessee is sixth in the nation for the number of uninsured drivers. Twenty-three percent of its driving population -- nearly a million drivers -- is uninsured, according to Lamberth and to PropertyCasualty360.com.
The bill is named after James Lee Atwood, Jr., of Memphis. Last July, an uninsured driver killed the insured 30-year-old Memphis man in an accident on Shelby Dr. in Southeast Memphis. Police pulled over 24-year-old Roderick Maggett of Cordova earlier that day and cited him for driving without proof of insurance. Without the authority to detain Maggett or his vehicle, officers let him drive off -- only to crash into and kill Atwood Jr. seven hours later while still driving without insurance. A Shelby County grand jury indicted Maggett on vehicular homicide and reckless endangerment charges in connection with the accident.
As introduced, enacts the "James Lee Atwood, JR. Law". To develop and implement an efficient insurance verification program that utilizes the online verification system, standards, specifications, model and guide of the Insurance Industry Committee on Motor Vehicle Administration (IICMVA) or a full book of business, in order to verify whether the Financial Responsibility requirements of this chapter have been met with a vehicle liability policy.
The PIA of TN has been very active in lobbying the Legislative Leaders to pass this important legislation. We have over a 20% uninsured motorist rate in Tennessee because we do not have a procedure in place to determine who does not have insurance on their vehicle. This law would put in place monthly audits to identify those that do not have coverage, and give them 90 days to correct the situation. If not addressed, the driver will be sent another letter informing them that the County Clerk is revoking the registration on the vehicle.
We believe that this is the first step in raising the awareness of this issue, and correcting a problem that has plagued Tennessee for far too long. We would like to see additional actions added to this legislation, to further lower the number of uninsured drives on our streets