The last time that the state raised the minimum amount of auto insurance a driver must carry, a Ford Gran Torino cost $3,200.
Now those levels are poised to increase for the first time since 1969.
Under a law that will take effect in December, minimum-insurance requirements will at least double – to $25,000 per person, $50,000 for a multiperson accident and $25,000 for property damage.The Ohio Insurance Institute estimates that about 400,000 Ohioans – roughly 5 percent of the state’s insured drivers – carry the minimum levels.
How much more they will pay in premiums under the new mandate is difficult to say.
Several insurance companies declined to speak about the law or said it’s too early to know.
Industry officials note that a variety of factors – age, driving record, vehicle type, driver’s place of residence, among others – are used to set rates, making it tough to figure out how much they might change for a particular driver. Officials also note that Ohio’s competitive market for insurance coverage gives drivers options.
“It’s going to affect everyone differently,” said Dan Kelso, institute president.
“The Department does not have any premium projections based on the recently passed minimum-requirements law,” Chris Brock, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Insurance, said in an email. “Ohio currently has the 10th-lowest auto rates in the country, and these changes only impact one of many rating factors used by companies to determine premiums.”
State Rep. Gerald L. Stebelton, who sponsored the legislation to raise the minimum levels, said drivers who carry the minimum should expect to pay a few dollars more a month for coverage.
“We weren’t too concerned about that,” said Stebelton, R-Lancaster. “There’s a cost associated with driving a car.”
Even with the increase, he said, the new minimums won’t provide a lot of coverage.
Through the years, Kelso said, the insurance institute has opposed or remained neutral about higher minimums. If drivers want to have more insurance, he said, nothing prevents them from buying it. “The question is whether the state should be telling them that.”
The industry stayed neutral on the legislation this time, Kelso said, but the legislation became more palatable with the addition of some other provisions.John Van Doorn, executive director of the Ohio Association of Justice, a group for trial lawyers, said the increase “is long overdue.”A lthough members of the group stand to benefit financially from the increase, Van Doorn said the increase was needed because of the damage that drivers with inadequate insurance can inflict on others when involved in an accident.A new car today costs an average of $27,000.
“It’s more out of frustration with some of my members representing someone when they’re hit by an underinsured or uninsured driver,” he said.
One concern is that the law will drive up policy prices enough that more drivers will skip insurance altogether.
The state’s program of randomly checking drivers for coverage has found that about 11 percent typically lack insurance.Kelso doesn’t foresee a big problem. “This is not going to turn the market upside down,” he said. “There will probably be a certain segment that because of the increased cost will drop coverage.”
Van Doorn said that research in other states hasn’t found a correlation between minimum insurance levels and number of uninsured drivers.
The key, he said, is strict enforcement of the law.
Source: The Columbus Dispatch, February 3, 2013, by Mark Williams