Tougher penalties for uninsured drivers in 2017 - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Tougher penalties for uninsured drivers in 2017

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HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -

In an effort to keep you and your family safe, the state of Tennessee is cracking down on uninsured drivers.

Tennessee is ranked sixth in the nation for uninsured motorists, with over 20 percent of its drivers uninsured, but thanks to a new law state legislators hope to change that.

READ MORE | New Tennessee laws go into effect in 2017

Judge Russell Bean sees it in his courtroom all the time. “People be in an accident, be in the hospital, lose their car, can't go to work and the other person doesn't have insurance.” 

People driving without insurance will now have a tougher time getting away with it.  “Revoke your registration which is the big change. Constantly monitoring whether you have insurance versus in the past just at stops,” said Brett Smalley, an agent at State Farm.

The Tennessee Department of Revenue launched a statewide electronic insurance verification system. The system will automatically "ping" Tennessee drivers' vehicle registrations for proof of insurance. “Put some penalties there, if they get caught in the future they may really take a second look at it.”

If the system cannot confirm coverage, that vehicle will be marked as 'unconfirmed'. Unconfirmed drivers will receive notices in the mail that they are not in compliance and they will be directed online to provide proof of insurance. “Hurts other drivers and their cost of insurance by carrying uninsured motorist, increase premiums.”

But the state will have to work out some kinks. “Some insurances don't get listed with this online services. So people are going to get pulled over who has insurance,” said Judge Bean. 

The new law allows police to tow an offender's vehicle, it triples the minimum fine from $100 to $300 dollars, and makes driving without insurance a Class C misdemeanor. “A Class C misdemeanor would be; you could get 30 days in jail for it.”

Judge Bean is happy to see tougher penalties for safer Tennessee roadways in 2017. “It shows the problem that we have. It made everyone aware.”

Tennessee lawmakers estimated one in five Tennessee drivers are on the streets and highways without insurance.

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