Drivers should be prepared to show evidence of motor vehicle insurance if they are stopped in Red Oak – or their vehicle will be impounded.

The city has taken a stance against uninsured motorists and has amended its ordinance relating to the police department’s authority for a non-consent towing of a vehicle.

From July 1, 2010, through Feb. 16, 2011, the Red Oak Police Department issued 272 citations for no insurance, Police Chief Craig Rudolph said, noting that within a three-month period beginning in October, a non-insured motorist backed into a marked ROPD police car. In another incident, a non-insured motorist pulled out in front of a marked ROPD motorcycle and hit the officer.

The city of Red Oak ordinance has been amended to read:

Red Oak Code of Ordinance Section 12.08.02 Authority for Non-consent Tow:

(a) (8)    The vehicle is in an accident and the vehicle’s owner or operator fails to show evidence of financial responsibility as required under Chapter 601 of the Texas Transportation Code, as amended; or

(9) The vehicle is stopped by a police officer for an alleged violation of a city or state traffic law or other law applicable to the operation of a vehicle on the roadway and the vehicle’s owner or operator fails to show evidence of financial responsibility as required under Chapter 601 of the Texas Transportation Code, as amended.

In Texas, more than 20 percent of the vehicles on the roads are believed to have no insurance coverage – which equates to one out of every five cars and trucks. It’s estimated law-abiding Texans are paying about $1 billion annually in optional insurance coverage to protect themselves against uninsured and underinsured motorists.

Rudolph told the city council at its recent meeting that officers do have latitude not to have a vehicle towed if a driver doesn’t have physical proof of insurance but the information verifies through a state database known as TexasSure, a system developed by the state departments of Insurance, Public Safety, Motor Vehicles and Information Resources to reduce the number of uninsured motorists.

As of Dec. 6, TexasSure vehicle insurance verification numbers indicated almost 23 percent of all vehicles in the state are likely lacking coverage, based on the total number of registrations (18,020,342) when compared to the number of unmatched registrations (4,122,342).

In Ellis County, an estimated 19.45 percent of all vehicles are uninsured, with 121,479 registered vehicles and 23,622 unmatched registrations.  

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles implemented TexasSure in all county tax assessor-collector offices in June 2008 for registration purposes, with the Texas Department of Public Safety implementing the program statewide Oct. 1, 2008, for law enforcement use.

Every week, insurers provide their policyholders’ auto insurance information to TexasSure, where it is matched to state driver license and motor vehicle records. A suitable grace period allows for data discrepancies due to vehicle sales, changes in policies and other normal situations.

The system is available to all law enforcement agencies statewide. In most cases, TexasSure will tell the officer whether a motorist has insurance coverage.

State law requires that motorists must show proof of insurance, so it’s best to keep that card available at all times, according to the TexasSure website, which notes the chances of getting a ticket and having one’s vehicle towed go up dramatically if proof cannot be shown.