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Traffic cams and car insurance

By Jay MacDonald ·
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Posted: 7 am ET

Should traffic cameras be used to identify motorists who drive without auto insurance?

A plan by Oklahoma lawmakers to use traffic cameras to nail motorists who drive without auto insurance slammed into a brick wall last week.

The idea, proposed by Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry, had been expected to raise $50 million in its first year by snagging not only uninsured Oklahomans, but also motorists from other states who pass through without auto insurance.

According to the Associated Press, lawmakers applied the brakes when they failed to find a company that could provide car insurance verification data for all 50 states. State officials also had not authorized uninsured motorist fines to flow into the general fund. Supporters hope to revisit the proposal next year.

The American Civil Liberties Union expressed concern that such a program would violate the privacy rights of all Oklahomans, 20 percent of whom currently roll without qualifying liability coverage.

Until now, the debate over traffic cameras has largely centered on their effectiveness -- and cost-effectiveness -- as a traffic safety measure. Supporters claim that so-called "red light" and "speed" cameras discourage motorists from running traffic lights and speeding at a fraction of the cost of law enforcement officers. Opponents call the cameras an invasion of privacy with little or no impact on public safety, designed primarily to increase revenue for the authorizing municipal or county governments.

Gov. Henry's proposal to use traffic cameras to enforce mandatory state auto insurance statutes may open up a whole new can of contention.

Jim Baxter, president of the National Motorist Association, calls compulsory auto insurance not just a failure but counterproductive. In Baxter's view, the main cause of uninsured motoring is economic: the poor can't afford car insurance. Fining people who can't afford car insurance only leaves them with less money to buy coverage. He says revoking their license is similarly wrongheaded. What are they supposed to do, not drive to the job they need to support their family?

What do you think? Should traffic cameras be used to single out and fine uninsured drivers?

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Don Birkholz
August 17, 2010 at 11:13 pm

I would have liked to have seen comments on the number of poor people on food stamps due to mandatory auto insurance. According to a food stamp survey done at my request thru the Montana DPHHS, 12% of the food stamp applicants in Billings, MT said auto insurance was a reason for needing food stamps. That would equal around 30,000 over the last 20 years in Montana. Go to for a copy of the survey.