Mississippi has been an integral part of the United States since 1817. The Magnolia State has lush forests, sun-kissed beaches, and almost three million friendly people.
So why is it such a dangerous place to drive?
Because Mississippi also has one of the highest percentages of motorists who drive without auto insurance. More than 1 in 4 drivers – about 28% – do not have current car insurance coverage for their vehicles. That’s sharply higher than the national average of 16%.
Technically, these uninsured drivers are breaking the law – since Mississippi (like all other U.S. states) requires its drivers to carry a minimum level of liability insurance on their vehicles. But for decades, enforcement of that law was nearly impossible because there was no system in place to make sure that its drivers were in fact insured. The regulation was strengthened somewhat in 2000, when a law was passed requiring drivers to show proof of insurance if they had been in an auto accident or pulled over by police for a traffic violation. But there still wasn’t any way to prove that the proof of insurance documentation was current (or even that it wasn’t forged).
To remedy this problem, lawmakers drafted a bill this year that would have made drivers purchase auto insurance and supply proof of this insurance to the Department of Public Safety before they could obtain a car tag, which is legally required for all vehicles on the state’s roads. Many other states have similar systems in place in order to ensure that motorists are acquiring the insurance coverage that is mandated by law. The Mississippi bill reportedly took years of discussion and debate before it was approved by the state’s Legislature.
It was a win for proponents of responsible, safe driving – until this guy stepped in.
Governor Haley Barbour surprised everyone by vetoing the legislation. He claimed that the bill would overburden DPS, cost the taxpayers too much, and not permit enough time to do what was needed to implement the system.
This explanation was met with puzzlement by some lawmakers. State Representative Hank Zuber III, a Republican like Barbour, said he was shocked that the governor broke out his veto pen because Barbour had never expressed any problems with the bill during the legislative session. Zuber also insisted that the bill was both fiscally responsible and sound public policy.
Though he didn’t like the bill itself, Barbour did say he was in favor of the concept of presenting proof of auto insurance before getting a car tag. But Zuber said that the Mississippi legislature will be so busy in the near future that the bill will probably not be voted upon again; nor does he think Barbour’s veto can be overridden.
In short, because of the perplexing last-minute rejection of the bill by Haley Barbour, uninsured Mississippi drivers will continue to crowd the state’s roads and highways. And if one of these scofflaws crashes into you, the costs to cover property damage and medical bills may very well come out of your (insurer’s) pocket, not theirs.
That’s why it’s dangerous to drive in the Magnolia State.