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Maryland Drunk Driver Liability Auto Insurance

A group of delegates in the Maryland state House sponsored a bill that would significantly increase the minimum requirements for auto liability insurance for drivers who are convicted of a second drunk driving offense. The bill had been on the House floor since January 2010, and entered the House Economic Matters Committee for its consideration in February.

Maryland House Bill 526 would require twice convicted drunk drivers in the state to carry much higher auto liability limits than the minimums mandated by state law. Maryland uses the split form system for auto liability insurance. Drivers in the state must abide by state requirements for liability insurance. The minimum levels of acceptable coverage in Maryland are $20,000 for single victim bodily injury or death; $40,000 for multiple victim bodily injury or death; and $15,000 in property damage liability coverage. This insurance protection covers the cost of injuries to the other driver, passengers in other vehicles, any bicyclists or pedestrians who might be involved in an accident for which the covered driver is at fault.

But under the terms of House Bill 526, those minimums would be much higher for repeat offender drunk drivers in the state of Maryland. The bodily injury liability minimums would go up to $100,000 and $300,000 respectively; while the property damage liability minimum would be increased to $100,000 for drivers with multiple drunken driving convictions on their record [1]. The bill is intended to be looked upon as a deterrent for would be drunk drivers or for those who already have a single conviction to prevent them from making the same mistake again. It would protect motorists in a few different ways. First, it would give them a higher financial basis for coverage if they were involved in an accident with a drunk driver. And second, it would hopefully deter more drivers from making the choice to drive after drinking and thus protect more motorists from getting into these accidents at all.

Economic Matters Committee Rejects Bill

The House Economic Matters Committee took up House Bill 526 for consideration in February and voted on the measure on March 9. The Committee came out against the measure by a vote of 15 to 4 [1]. The bill in its current form would appear to be dead at this point; but with a full 19 sponsors in the House, it's clear there is a measure of legislative support for some sort of measure adding a punitive car insurance liability element to the list of consequences drunk drivers must face. Yet the Committee sent a strong mandate against the measure in its rather lopsided vote. As with so many other matters, surely there is more going on behind the scenes than the average observer can be aware of. Nevertheless, this topic remains something worth keeping a watchful eye on in Maryland.

Drunken driving rates in the state and across the country remain high in spite of legal and punitive deterrents already in place. Measures like the one embodied in Maryland House Bill 526 would seem to be a good idea, but every legal change has complications and every possible outcome has to be analyzed. What remains clear is that drunk driving is a persistent problem on our roads and highways. Legislators have worked with mixed success to provide legal means to battle this problem, but intoxicated individuals keep getting behind the wheel.

How DUI Affects Your Insurance

And these individuals and the choices they make affect all of us, indirectly if not directly. Even if you have never been involved in an accident with a drunk driver, chances are someone you know has. But even if there are those among us who have never been through this, we are all paying the price for these choices, in Maryland and elsewhere. The simple fact that drunk drivers habitually get behind the wheel and get into multiple accidents costs everyone money. We all pay higher auto insurance premiums because habitual drunk drivers drive up average claim rates and thus cost us all money. The drunk driver problem costs you on your auto insurance policy, even if you have never driven a car after drinking.

The fact that Maryland House Bill526 had so much initial support and so many sponsors willing to put their names behind it shows that drunk driving is a common concern shared among many of us and many of the constituents of these legislators. But the way the bill died in the House after being given an unfavorable judgment by the Economic Matters Committee demonstrates how complex this topic is, and how difficult it can be to come up with workable solutions that even just a simple majority among us can agree upon. Drunk driving is a major issue.

[1] http://mlis.state.md.us/2010rs/billfile/HB0526.htm Retrieved 2010-03-14.

 

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