Tag: auto

Bill in North Carolina Senate splits Auto Insurance Industry

Aimed at increasing competition within the automobile insurance industry, a senator in North Carolina has recently introduced a bill that he hopes would help to save insurance customers money. Certain insurance carriers, and the insurance commissioner for the state of North Carolina, have suggested that the legislation would actually do the opposite of what was intended, and would make rates go up.

North CarolinaThe insurance industry has come down on two sides of the issue with a coalition named Fair Automobile Insurance Rates supporting the bill. Referred to as FAIR, this coalition counted members including Geico, Allstate, State Farm, and Farmers. Against the bill is another group of insurance companies with members like Nationwide, GMAC, N.C. Farm Bureau, and Discovery Insurance.

Thus far, the increases for insurance rates in the state were guided by a department of the government called the North Carolina Rate Bureau. Much like senators might request too much funding for their state only to receive a lower amount of money, the same methods are used by the insurance companies to obtain state-condoned rate increases.

The way in which the N.C. Rate Bureau would operate would include taking a number from the insurance industry and its carriers, and using it to negotiate with state lawmakers on what rate increases would be appropriate. The rates approved by the government were very nearly always less than what was requested by the insurance companies.

The senator who introduced the new bill, Wesley Meredith, suggests that his bill would make it easier for insurance companies to give people living in high rate areas a lower rate based upon good driving habits. The bill would also make it possible for insurance carriers to hike rates up on unsafe drivers.

Current methods for determining insurance rates ensure that about three-quarters of residents in the state have to pay a premium to cover the increased costs of covering a high-risk driver. Some lawmakers within the state have suggested that this method of charging premiums has forced good drivers to pay for the mistakes and poor driving habits of high-risk drivers.

Some in the state have even suggested that the current design of insurance premiums has made it more expensive for women drivers and older drivers, and has also made it hard for any change to come about within the industry as a whole. Numbers suggest that drivers who have to pay more to cover bad drivers end up with about $16 in additional charges on their bill.

One interesting element of this bill is that one of the companies that are in opposition to the bill, Nationwide, donated money in the past to the senator’s campaign fund. The senator has suggested that funding from insurance companies in the past did not influence his decision to put the bill through the government.

Insurance consumers in North Carolina are worried and whatever the outcome, they just don’t want to have this impact their rates in a negative way. One person with spoke with, says his happy with his current auto insurance provider First Acceptance, but that he is tired of being misrepresented:

“…I’m tired of politics affecting my bottom line! It’s time our elected officials represented their people instead of the lobbyists.”

There are other bills currently working their way through the senate chamber that would also impact the state’s insurance industry. The senator who introduced those bills, Tom Apodaca, suggested that his bills would offer a better approach to the issue of making insurance rates fair across all drivers in the state. Passage of any of the bills might come down to which bill the Republican-majority senate would favor.

Red Light Cameras Being Looked At As Potential Witnesses In Non-Traffic Investigations

red-lgithThroughout the last decade, cameras have been installed to monitor street junctures for traffic infractions. The most common violation these visual devices seek is a lack of regard for red light stops. These machines automatically capture photographs of any vehicle that breaks the rules of the intersection. The picture is used as evidence of illegal behavior. Without any personal interaction with a law enforcement officer, drivers can receive a heavy fine and court appearance. Their installation is not handled by the federal government, which means each state and city determines their own regulations.

The state of Washington first implemented red light cameras in 2005. Currently, images taken by these devices can only be used as evidence in traffic cases. Lawmakers are attempting to change this in Bremerton, Washington. As the law is written, these cameras are supposed to be allowed only to take photographs for the purposes of vehicular identification. Their emphasis is supposed to be on capturing a clear picture of the driver and license plate; however, officers in Bremerton have started utilizing the cameras for an alternative purpose, which is to bring closure to unsolved homicide investigations.

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In 2011, a teenage girl named Sara Burke was fatally stabbed at the intersection of Warren Avenue and 11th Street. The case has not been solved for almost two years. After the initial incident, police officers successfully filed a warrant to receive access to the footage that was recorded by the red-light camera in the area. Law enforcement was granted permission to view two hours of material from the device in hopes of locating clues. This is in spite of the county’s rules that state imagery on the cameras should only pertain to traffic cases. No clarification has been given to the media on why police were able to view legally restricted information.

Instead of admitting any wrongdoing, the Bremerton Police Department is petitioning the state legislature to legalize red light cameras for use in criminal cases. House Bill 1047 soared through the House, which approved it with nearly eighty percent of the congressional body in favor. This could initiate a caustic debate revolving around privacy concerns. Issues regarding unnecessary surveillance have a tendency to spark public outrage, especially if the accuracy of the technology is questionable.

The photo quality of pictures taken by these devices are typically abysmal. They feature a pronounced level of graininess that can render identifying features into an incomprehensible blur. The incorporation of such unreliable machinery as a legal witness could result in an unattainable degree of certitude during trials. The believably of testimony could potentially be compromised if surveillance evidence seems subjective or inconclusive. As such, the technology needs to evolve before it is applied in a widespread manner; otherwise, wrongful incarcerations and false convictions could easily result.

Burke’s death was an extremely unfortunate tragedy. It would be a disservice to her honor to allow legislation to pass that infringes on the public’s innate principle of privacy in her name. The manufacturers of such monitoring technology have not formally approved its use by criminal investigators, because they understand the challenges of veracity that the hardware will face. Officers say that expanding the cameras for this new function will prevent further violence, but it is a slippery slope to non-stop surveillance.