Thursday, April 3, 2008

The city's proposed auto insurance/towing policy

On the surface, the idea seems like a good one. If your car doesn't carry insurance, it will be towed. No insurance, good-bye car. This idea is being pushed by Dallas City Council member Mitchell Rasansky, spurred on, no doubt, because his car was recently struck by one not carrying insurance. (For some reason I started thinking about how the NRA would spin this: "Cars don't kill people, drivers do." But that's another issue.)

The idea behind all this is to protect all the good guys who can afford to carry insurance. Whenever something like this comes up I ask myself "If I was a member of the Dallas City Council, how would I vote on this item" (which, by the way, will apparently be on the Council's April 23 agenda). I tossed that question around internally this morning over a bagel, a cup of coffee and a newspaper story about the Council's debate on the subject yesterday.

And what I decided is that, perhaps, it depends on how this policy is enforced. Crucial information about enforcement was missing from the news story. My concerns revolved around the notion of a couple of policemen sitting in their vehicles when one turns to the other and says "Hey, that looks like a guy whose doesn't have insurance. Let's check 'em out." That, dear friends, is what is known as profiling and it stinks.

So I went back and checked on the briefing presented yesterday to council was relieved somewhat to read at the top of slide No. 6 "Officer initiates traffic stop based on observed violation ..." The way I read that is the driver would have to be speeding, running a red light, be a comely blonde -- something that would get that driver pulled over even if this law wasn't in effect -- before being asked to produce some proof of insurance.

That makes me feel a little better, but only a little. No where in the briefing does it say the car's owner needs to produce proof of insurance in order to get his car out of the pound. So I'm thinking, this is going to get a lot more cars towed, but will it get any more insured? And doesn't a driver have to show proof of insurance to get a car inspected and new license tags anyway? I know these people frequent "Midnight Auto Insurance Co." which issues policies by the day or week to cover those circumstances, but couldn't the that same company issue something that will allow a driver to retrieve a car from the pound, if such proof of insurance is even necessary?

But the larger question is this: Why are we, as a society, so anxious to punish folks for doing what we perceive to be wrong instead of giving them some incentive to do what's right? Why, for example, isn't the city looking at ways to develop privately financed pools that could be used to help offset the costs of auto insurance to certain eligible car owners?

I have decided. I would vote "no" on this agenda item.

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