ODESSA, Texas — About 40% of drivers in the Permian Basin are uninsured, a reality that puts everyone at risk to pay higher rates for car insurance.
The City of Odessa recently amended an ordinance that might invite those that are uninsured to think otherwise.
The change will put uninsured drivers at risk of having their vehicle towed after a traffic stop or accident. That possibility will be at the discretion of the police officer.
If the decision is made for the vehicle to be impounded, that will add another penalty to deal with.
“I think a lot of drivers were weighing it of ‘How long can I get away without having to pay insurance versus what is the cost of the fine?’" said Kris Crow, an insurance agent in Odessa. "Well now, they don’t have to… balance off the cost of just the fine against the insurance premiums, but 'I’ve got a fine, plus I’m going to have to pay impound charges, plus I’m probably going to have to get a ride from where I’m standing because my car just got impounded.' So, just the sheer inconvenience of it I think will have an effect and get people to think twice about, ‘do I go ahead and get insurance like I’m required to do to be on the road or do I not?’”
The problem has gotten worse over the last decade in Odessa with insurance rates high, an issue that affects those that are insured negatively.
“Due to the sheer increase in uninsured motorist claims that we have, it’s driving rates up for everybody," said Crow. "So, almost 100% of the time is it going to affect everybody that’s in that market."
The city could end up saving some money in the long run, which may benefit Odessans.
“When an uninsured driver is in an accident with a municipal vehicle — for the most part the city is self-insured — so the city has to write the check for that," said Crow. "So, in addition to creating a problem, you know that has to affect the tax rates for the municipality as well. Maybe not immediately, but down the road when they’re factoring budgetary constraints that’s going to have an impact.”
For those who might consider getting insurance to avoid the possibility of getting towed, the process is simple.
“You just pick up the phone [and] call an insurance agent here in town," said Crow. "They’ll be happy to take your information over the phone, run some various insurance quotes for you, go over your options as far as the different coverages of liability and uninsured motorists and medical and personal injury protection and comp and collision. You’ve got several different factors you can play with to help control those rates, and a good agent will walk through those with you.”
Crow said that the rise in uninsured drivers has created a big problem for his industry, as well as the City of Odessa and it’s citizens. The Odessa City Council voted unanimously to make the change on Tuesday night, and Crow noted that he is excited about it.