From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
April 30, 1999
Contact: Jeremy Warren, (512) 463-0113

Senate Passes Ellis' Good Driver Measure to Help Texans Obtain Affordable Auto Insurance

(Austin)// The Senate today approved a measure by Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) to help Texas drivers obtain affordable auto insurance. Ellis' measure was amended to SB 1787, by Senator Teel Bivins (R-Amarillo), to increase enforcement of the uninsured motorists law.

Under the Ellis plan, auto insurers would be required to create a "good driver" category within the Texas Auto Insurance Plan Association (TAIPA). TAIPA is the auto insurance assigned risk pool and insures about 1 percent of the market. To qualify for TAIPA, a driver must have been rejected for coverage by two insurance companies. Companies can refuse to insure someone for any reason, including no prior insurance, credit report, or by the choice or internal guidelines of the auto insurer.

"In Texas, high premiums and sometimes arbitrary guidelines have made it impossible for some Texans to get the coverage they need," said Ellis. "If we don't do more to increase access to affordable auto insurance, than we will merely be criminalizing poverty. This amendment will help good drivers get access to the insurance they can afford and have earned."

Good drivers are penalized by the current TAIPA system. According to Center for Economic Justice, 70 percent of the drivers in TAIPA have not had a ticket or an accident in the last three years. While TAIPA currently has a mechanism to "graduate" good drivers out of the program, excessive premiums make it tremendously difficult to stay enrolled in the program for the required three years.

In order to be certified as a "good driver" in the new TAIPA program, a driver must meet be a female over 21 or a male over 25 who does not drive a sports or high performance vehicle, has been licensed to drive for at least three years, has not been found at fault in a car wreck, received a moving violation, or been convicted of a DWI in the last three years, has never made a fraudulent insurance claim.

The lack of affordable auto insurance is the key factor behind Texas' high rate of uninsured drivers. In the early 90s, when affordable auto insurance was more accessible following new reforms, the percentage of Texans without auto insurance dropped from 18-20 percent to 15 percent. Since then, as assigned pool auto rates have skyrocketed and the percentage of Texans driving without insurance has climbed back to previous levels.