Our View: Insured? The state won't take your word for it

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Minnesota vehicle owners will have to prove they have insurance to renew their tabs or transfer ownership, starting Jan. 1.

Every time we get behind the wheel, we usually assume that other motorists we meet on the road carry insurance.

We shouldn't. More than 1 in 10 Minnesota drivers don't have insurance on their vehicles. While Minnesota's 10.8 percent uninsured motorist rate is better than the national rate of 12.5 percent, it's still too high and too costly. The Insurance Research Council estimates that 511,000 Minnesotans are driving without insurance, costing $9.8 million in claim payments.

Part of the problem is that Minnesotans don't have to prove they're insured when they register a vehicle, renew their license tabs or transfer ownership. They simply have to attest that they have motor vehicle or motorcycle insurance.

Starting Jan. 1, that changes. The state will no longer take your word for it after a law was passed by the 2015 Legislature. You will be required to provide specific policy information: the name of an insurance company, the policy number and the expiration date.

It's a practical requirement that should have been mandated all along. The law was passed last spring after a state-appointed task force filed a report recommending stronger proof-of-insurance requirements.


This won't solve the problem entirely because Minnesota has yet to adopt an electronic verification system. Until then, a motor vehicle or law enforcement agency will have to call or email an insurance company to confirm someone's coverage. Consequently, verification is time-consuming and often not done except in high-priority cases.

Among the task force's other recommendations was to assess the viability of an electronic verification system, but it acknowledged this probably won't be possible until 2018 because the Department of Public Safety's 40-year-old mainframe computer system is in the process of being replaced by the web-based Minnesota Licensing and Registration System , which is already behind schedule and over budget. It's a daunting project when you consider the DPS Driver and Vehicle Services Division annually registers more than 4.6 million vehicles and issues nearly 1.5 million titles.

Minnesota law requires drivers to possess proof of insurance at all times and maintain the insurance when a vehicle is actively operated or if the vehicle is parked but its use is possible. We understand that many will skirt the the law by canceling coverage after registering their vehicle, but requiring proof of insurance in the first place will help lower the number of uninsured drivers.

Getting in an accident with an uninsured driver is troublesome on many levels. If an uninsured driver is determined to be at fault, they are financially responsible. However, if uninsured drivers are too financially strapped to maintain insurance coverage, they certainly don't have the assets to pay your medical bills. That's why insurance companies recommend buying coverage for uninsured or underinsured motorists.

The car insurance industry says the average driver will file an insurance claim once every 18 years . The reality is you will get in a car accident a couple of times during your life.

Let's improve the odds that the other driver is insured, too.

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