They are big changes that - if passed into law - could affect all North Carolina drivers. The insurance industry wants to change our state's car insurance laws created in 1957, and their proposal has bi-partisan support.
"We do everything completely different in every other state in the country. And then we have to do it a special way in North Carolina," Jonathan Calhoun, a Wilmington State Farm Insurance Agent said about one of the reasons they're trying to change the law. He says North Carolina's car insurance laws are so outdated, they actually hurt drivers.
State law requires you be assigned insurance points for certain traffic infractions and collisions. Depending on the nature of your offense, the state's Safe Driver Incentive Plan (SDIP) requires insurance companies automatically increase your premiums anywhere from 30% to 340%.
Long-time driver Bruce McKinney found that out the hard way after a fender bender in Leland. His $1,900 repair was just over the $1,800 cutoff that triggers a mandatory 45% insurance rate hike.
"That's a significant increase," McKinney said. "I don't think I've had any claims in the last 10-12 years. I haven't had a ticket in over 20 years."
State Farm said they'd like to have the flexibility to cut drivers like McKinney a break, but the law gives them no discretion.
Despite these grievances, a spokeswoman for the NC Department of Insurance says the current way of doing things beats the proposed alternative. She says if the Good Driver Discount Bill is passed into law, it would remove the rate caps set by the insurance commissioner, and insurance companies could charge drivers however much they wanted.
The Department of Insurance says North Carolina drivers enjoy the 6th lowest insurance rates in the country. But Calhoun says that statistic is misleading, and only factors in the cost of liability insurance for drivers with no infractions on their record.
"That would be the equivalent of me saying, ‘Hey, I'm really cheap, as long as you don't need me. But once you need me, I now become the 4th highest state in the country when it comes to insurance premiums," Calhoun explained.
Calhoun is encouraging drivers who have had to pay excessive insurance premiums because of the current SDIP laws to call their state lawmakers and voice support for changing the law when it comes to a vote next month. The bill has bi-partisan support from Wilmington-area law makers, including Rep. Susi Hamilton, (D) and Senator Thom Goolsby, (R).
Goolsby says he supports the bill as well as efforts to get rid of the Insurance Rate Bureau. He said we do not need to be subsidizing bad drivers.
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