North Dakota Moves to Double Auto Insurance Minimum Limits

By | January 29, 2009

North Dakota drivers’ minimum required insurance coverage for accidents hasn’t changed in 24 years and should be raised, the state House narrowly decided after debating whether motorists could afford the increase.

“We talk about wanting people to have higher and better insurance, higher coverage, and I agree,” said Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot. “The reality is, though, do you want people to have the best, or none? Or do you want them to have some?”

Representatives voted 51-43 to approve legislation to double the minimum insurance coverages for injuries and property damage that North Dakota motorists must carry to drive legally.

The vote came despite a recommendation from the House Transportation Committee, of which Ruby is chairman, that the measure be defeated. The bill now goes to the North Dakota Senate.

North Dakota law now requires drivers to have $25,000 worth of insurance coverage for a person who’s injured in an accident and $50,000 to cover everyone injured in a single accident. Drivers also need at least $25,000 worth of coverage for property damage from an accident.

The legislation raises the injury limits to $50,000 for an individual and $100,000 for everyone injured in a single accident. The property damage limit would increase from $25,000 to $50,000.

The existing limits were set in 1985. An inflation calculator operated by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics shows $25,000 in 1985 had the purchasing power of $49,355 in today’s dollars.

The increased coverage “is not a burden on any driver. If you’re going to drive a car, then you should have the proper protection,” said Rep. Frank Wald, R-Dickinson. “The difference in cost for a 19-year-old is probably a couple of cases of beer every six months. If he or she can’t afford that, they probably shouldn’t have a driver’s license.”

Rep. Chris Griffin, D-Larimore, said he also did not believe the increase would price coverage out of the reach of drivers. Uninsured drivers often are driving with suspended licenses, which has nothing to do with the cost of coverage, he said.

“If you’re required to carry insurance under law, which you are, you should have to have somewhat adequate insurance,” Griffin said. “I don’t think these limits are excessive at all.”

Rep. Arlo Schmidt, D-Maddock, said the higher coverage would make insurance pricier for young people, who normally pay higher rates in any case.

“One of the biggest problems in North Dakota, is people without
insurance,” Schmidt said. “When we analyze this, who are those
folks that aren’t carrying any insurance? They were 19-year-olds
and young people that are poor. But if we raise the rates, are we
going to encourage those people to buy insurance, or are we going
to discourage them?”

The bill is HB1068.

Topics Auto North Dakota

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