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New Tennessee law allows cops to tow uninsured drivers

There are more than 600,000 uninsured drivers in Tennessee. (Photo: Shutterstock)
There are more than 600,000 uninsured drivers in Tennessee. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Drivers in Tennessee can now be towed on the spot if they're unable to provide proof of insurance to law enforcement officers during a traffic stop, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported earlier this week.

A section of state law that took effect this year gives law enforcement agencies the new authority as part of a broader push to crack down on the estimated 660,000 uninsured motorists in Tennessee, the newspaper said.

Drivers have been required to carry auto insurance since 1977, but the new law opens additional avenues for enforcement. As well as allowing for the immediate tow, the law increases the minimum fee for not carrying proof of insurance from $100 to $300, and mandates development of a statewide electronic insurance database by 2017 so law enforcement can immediately verify a driver's insurance, according to the report.

State Rep. William Lamberth, R-Cottonwood, who sponsored the law, said he hopes to reduce the number of uninsured drivers on the road.

"Our hope is that each law enforcement agency will look at who they're seeing flagrantly disregard the insurance requirement," state Rep. William Lambeth (R), the law’s sponsor, told the newspaper. "If you're not going to follow the law, you should not have the ability to drive on our roadways."

An option

Law enforcement officers aren't required to tow a vehicle whose driver can't provide proof of insurance; they simply have the option to do so, Lamberth said. Under the law, officers can only tow a vehicle if their law enforcement agency has a policy in place to guide the process.

The new law likely will reduce the number of uninsured drivers in Tennessee in the long run, Glenn McLendon, regional director of insurance and membership at the American Automobile Association in Tennessee, told the paper.

"It's going to eventually have a great impact," he said. "As people become aware of the financial cost if they get pulled over and cannot provide a valid proof of insurance — the amount of money to have their car towed, the storage fee, the fine for not having insurance — it's getting the message out there that if you think insurance is expensive, look how expensive it will be if you get caught [without it]."

At least six other states have enacted similar laws, according to the New York City-based Insurance Information Institute: Louisiana, Texas, Utah, California, Oklahoma and Arizona.

Related: States eyeing uninsured motorists

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