The Dallas Transportation blog comes out in favor of an old favorite.
Our newspaper ran an editorial today about fighting the problem of uninsured motorists, those miserable characters who have complicated many of our lives. The news peg was a story by DMN Austin correspondent Terry Stutz on the latest scofflaw figures.
Here’s what the editorial didn’t mention as a possible solution: Putting a surcharge on the price of gasoline as a way to guarantee liability coverage. That way, everyone would pay into a liability pool and it would be impossible for any driver to duck the cost the rest of us must bear.
Paying at the pump would establish a liability pool so we could lower our costs of uninsured motorist coverage, presumably. Those of us who wanted, could go into the market and buy added coverage against theft and collision and higher coverage limits.
Paying an insurance surcharge at the pump could also lead to a fairer way of charging people for coverage — those who drive more would pay more, and Grandma would pay less if her driving consists mostly of short hops to the grocery store and church. The LA Times writes that kind of coverage is available in a few dozen states now. I didn’t know that.
Scott Henson at Grits for Breakfast has been writing about the pay-at-the-pump approach for awhile. I agree with him that it would be a long shot to get through the Legislature. The current price structure clearly works for insurance companies now, and from their point of view, why change it?
I’ve not written about this as often as Grits, but I’ve been in favor of this idea for some time. In contemplating it now, I can think of one objection, which is that there isn’t necessarily a tight correlation between how much gas you buy and how much you drive. How would you fairly charge owners of electric and hybrid cars for this? Yes, there are public car-charging stations now, and surely those could be adjusted to add in an insurance surcharge, but people can also charge their cars at home. You could add a fee to their vehicle registrations, but to say the least that would be a blunt instrument. Certainly, any connection between how much they drive and how much they are charged for insurance would be lost. And as the new fuel efficiency standards are phased in, there will be more and more serious disparities between different drivers and the amount of gas they buy. There may be some way of dealing with this, but I can’t say I’ve seen it discussed anywhere. I still support the idea, but this does need to be addressed.