The state of Mississippi has had compulsory car insurance in some form or another since the 1950’s. Despite over 60 years of requiring residents to maintain car insurance on their vehicles Mississippi has the second worst uninsured motorists rate in the country, behind only New Mexico. As of 2012 the uninsured motorist rate for the state of Mississippi was an astounding 28 percent, twice the national average, underscoring a problem the state has had with car insurance enforcement for the last decade. As recently as February, 2012 state lawmakers have attempted to get uninsured motorists under control by proposing new laws that would aid in the enforcement of Mississippi car insurance regulations.  Introduced in 2012, House Bill 480 will require all vehicles to have proof of insurance before they can be registered with the DMV. If passed the bill will also create a database of all vehicles registered in Mississippi and their current insurance status which will e used by law enforcement officers to instantly check if a vehicle has insurance during any traffic stop or after any accident. The database system is in use by many states and has proven to be quite effective, especially in Georgia and Wyoming, and because it is linked directly to insurance companies the insurance status of a vehicle would be updated instantaneously. If it is signed into law House Bill 480 will also establish a series of fines  intended to penalize drivers that are caught driving uninsured. The proposed fines would cost a driver $300 for a first offense, $400 for a second offense and $500 for a third offense.

Although Mississippi has a high rate of uninsured drivers, car insurance is still required by state law, even if the methods of enforcement have not yet been put entirely in place. According to Mississippi car insurance law drivers must obtain minimum levels of liability insurance on a vehicle before they can take it on a public road. These minimums are currently set at $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident in bodily injury liability insurance as well as $25,000 in property damage coverage. If a Mississippi resident does not want to purchase an auto insurance policy that meets these minimum levels of coverage set by the state they always have the option to post a bond or make a deposit in cash or securities with the state. A bond or deposit made with the state in lieu of purchasing a car insurance policy must be in the same amount as the combined total of bodily injury and property damage insurance required by the state. In addition to required liability coverage, when purchasing a policy in Mississippi drivers also have the option to voluntarily purchase variety of other types of insurance coverage for their vehicle. One of the most common types of coverage that Mississippi motorists add to their car insurance policies is collision coverage. Collision coverage will pay for any damages to the insured vehicle should it be involved in an accident in which the driver of the insured vehicle is at fault. If the driver of the insured vehicle is not at fault the at-fault driver’s property damage coverage will pay for any damage. Comprehensive coverage is also popular with many drivers because it covers all sorts of damage to a vehicle not caused by another car, such as hail or debris on the road. Drivers also have the option of purchasing personal injury protection which will cover any medical payments as well as lost wages that result from injuries sustained in a car accident that was not the policy holder’s fault. Because Mississippi require liability coverage and other forms of coverage are available to driver there is not much need for uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage in the state.

Until House Bill 480 passes the penalty for driving without insurance in Mississippi will remain the same as it was ten years ago. If a driver is pulled over for a traffic violation or involved in an accident they may be required to provide proof of insurance to law enforcement. If this proof cannot be provided the uninsured drive could face a fine as high as $1,000 and the registration of the vehicle could be suspended for up to 1 year. If the driver can provide proof of insurance or some other proof of financial responsibility at the time of their court hearing they could have their fine reduced and be permitted to reinstate their registration. Although these penalties are considered adequate the establishment of a complete database that can be consulted by law enforcement officers any time and any where should greatly increase the enforcement of current Mississippi car insurance laws. Such a database would allow an officer to know before he even pulls a vehicle over whether or not the vehicle meets the state’s financial responsibility requirements.