Monday, February 04, 2002

Bill would hike car insurance

Plan aims to raise insurance minimum

By Brian Clark
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS — Thousands of Ohioans could see their car insurance payments increase under a bill that has passed the state House and sits in a Senate committee.

        The measure would double the minimum coverage requirements for car insurance, the first increase since 1969.

        While proponents argue the old limits won't cover serious damage to a new car, some legislators worry the change could increase the numbers of uninsured drivers in Ohio.

        “My real fear is by us increasing limits there will be less people insured,” said Sen. Scott Nein, R-Middletown, chair of the Senate Insurance, Commerce and Labor Committee, where the bill is being considered.

        Ohio's minimum level of coverage is $12,500 for bodily injury to one person, $25,000 for injury to two or more people, and $7,500 for property damage. The bill seeks to raise those amounts to $25,000, $50,000 and $25,000, respectively.

        Many variables go into figuring insurance premiums, but if this bill passes, a single, 45-year-old man with a clean driving record could see premiums increase about $60 per year.

        “If you raise the rates, are you going to increase the number of uninsured drivers? I don't know,” said Daniel Kelso, president of the Ohio Insurance Institute.

        A 1995-97 study said 13 percent of Ohio's drivers were uninsured, giving the state the 18th-highest rate in the nation of uninsured drivers. Ohio law now requires drivers to carry insurance, but estimates show between 10 percent and 12 percent still drive without it.

        The insurance institute gave estimates to Mr. Nein's committee about how Maine's 1997 coverage increase affected uninsured drivers. In 1996, 3.7 percent of Maine drivers were uninsured. A year after the increase, that figure rose to 5.2 percent. By 1999, the number of uninsured motorists had fallen to 3.4 percent — the lowest of the 50 states.

        “Upon enactment, temporarily, there's been a spike (of uninsured drivers), but by year three or four it comes back down,” said Rep. Jon Husted, R-Kettering, who introduced the bill.

        A survey of members by the Ohio Insurance Institute says the average injury claim in Ohio is $6,580. It lists the average property damage claims as $2,170.


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