The Tennessee Legislature has recently amended the state insurance laws to allow police to tow vehicles of uninsured drivers. There is the provision in the law that the officer's agency must first establish a procedure for allowing this.
The Tennessee statute (T.C.A. 55-12-139) does not give any instructions as to what is to be done with the towed vehicle or how it is to be released. I believe the Legislature's purpose in this law is to require more Tennessee drivers to obtain liability insurance and also to prevent injured motorist from being left without any financial resource for the injuries and damages.
The problem is the Tennessee laws are far too complicated, as our Legislature seems to avoid the real solutions to this problem.
I personally think that a solution is simple. To begin with, our state needs to require drivers to show proof of insurance before they obtain their driver's license or license tag. This is done in many states effectively.
Presently, Tennessee drivers have to be stopped for a traffic violation or have an accident before the insurance is checked.
Also, our state needs to require that all drivers mandatorily carry uninsured motorist coverage. This coverage gives the insured protection if they are struck by an uninsured driver. Their own insurance covers the loss and proceeds to attempt to collect from the uninsured.
Presently, Tennessee has the confusing law that Tennessee insureds have to be offered the option of the uninsured coverage by their insurance provider, but they can sign a wavier waving the uninsured motorist coverage.
The problem here is that many insurance agents don't like uninsured coverage because the premiums are low. There are reports that many agents just get the insured to sign the waivers without explaining the potential dangers. Many tell the insured that they need to go ahead and sign the waiver as they already have full coverage. This is only partially true. It's full coverage as required by the state law, but it does not fully protect the insured.
Also, the insurance company lobbyists lobby the Legislature so as not to require mandatory uninsured motorist coverage. This is because the risks are high with a lot of illegal drivers driving without insurance. Because of that issue, it would probably be OK for the state law to be that if a person is not a citizen and has no insurance that the car can be towed.
So the solution should be, No. 1, require insurance before a person obtains a driver's license or tag. No. 2, require uninsured motorist coverage.
Judge Russell Bean
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