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Auto insurance requirements, pricing out of sync

| February 15, 2019 3:00 AM

Montana law requires auto insurance.

With hefty penalties for non-compliance: a person without insurance could face $250-500 in fines or 10 days in jail. Caught uninsured 3 or more times? $500 fine and/or prison for up to 6 months. Penalties are applied evenly, regardless of a person’s address or credit score. The same cannot be said for policy prices.

Working Montana families bear the brunt of an industry allowed to base prices on financial circumstances, zip code, job, education, and credit. Consumer Reports stated that new Montana drivers with clean records and poor credit pay nearly $1,700 more annually than one with excellent credit. Almost $1,200 more than excellent credit and a DUI. Premiums should be based on driving record, not credit.

Coverage lapses can increase policy prices. Some companies cannot even underwrite policies if someone’s coverage has ever lapsed. There are many situations that cause insurance lapses. Being priced out of the market, becoming incarcerated, deploying servicemembers, relocating military personnel and veterans, as well as anyone using public transit or biking. Montana Lawmakers must create an auto insurance market that provides equivalent drivers with equivalent rates and doesn’t penalize people for reasonable lapses in coverage.

— Cordero Metzker, Billings