News from the Tennessee Valley State, Local and National news
SUNDAY, JULY 15, 2007

No auto insurance, no license, lose car
City Council considers impound ordinance

By Evan Belanger · 340-2442

Motorists who choose to drive without a proper license or liability insurance could find themselves walking soon.

A possible city ordinance being discussed by members of the Decatur City Council and Mayor Don Kyle could allow police to tow and impound the vehicles of drivers who break either law.

Kyle said his wife has been involved in two accidents with uninsured motorists who were determined to be at fault. He said the possible ordinance is a matter of protecting the property, health and lives of Decatur residents.

“If we stop people that either don’t have a license or can’t prove they have insurance, they’re in violation of the law,” he said. “If we let them get back in that car and drive off, we’re aiding and abetting their violation.”

Meeting with towing companies

City officials are to meet with local towing company owners this week to discuss enforcement strategies. Kyle and District 3 City Councilman Gary Hammon said they hope to have an ordinance this fall.

Now motorists driving without proof of liability insurance can only be ticketed. Those driving without a license are ticketed and told to park their vehicle until a tow company or licensed driver picks it up.

Fines range from $110 to $610, including court costs. A judge can give three months in jail for the class-C misdemeanor.

“Right now, if somebody is in a wreck with an uninsured driver, the police have to write them a ticket and let them go,” Hammon said. “That’s just not right.”

The proposed Decatur ordinance is more encompassing than a similar one the Athens City Council passed in June. The Athens ordinance lets police tow a vehicle only if the driver does not have a proper license.

According to Athens Police Chief Wayne Harper, the ordinance also works to reduce the number of uninsured drivers because most motorists who don’t have a license also lack insurance coverage.

Athens police Capt. Marty Bruce said the city wrote more than 1,600 citations last year to people who were either driving without proof of insurance or driving without a valid license. The new law takes effect in Athens on Aug. 5.

The number of Decatur violators was not immediately available, but Decatur Police Chief Kenneth Collier said the problem of uninsured and unlicensed drivers is significant.

“The problem is usually relative to whether or not you’re the person on the other end of the wreck,” he said. “For the people who’ve had an accident, particularly when it’s the other guy’s fault, and they have no driver license and no insurance, it’s a big problem.

“And it happens frequently.”

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