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FRIDAY, JULY 20, 2007

10,500 no-insurance, license violations
Decatur mayor, councilman seek tougher laws to deal with problem

By Evan Belanger · 340-2442

During the past three years, Decatur police issued more than 10,500 citations to motorists driving with no insurance, no license or both, according to a report released by Mayor Don Kyle this week.

The report, which originated from the municipal court system, comes as Kyle and District 3 City Councilman Gary Hammon push for tougher laws to deal with license- and insurance-related moving violations.

The violations account for as much as 25 percent of the city’s total court dates, Kyle said.

“It’s a big percentage,” he said. “A lot of it is multiple violations by the same driver.”

The proposal, which they hope to present to the full council this fall, mandates that the vehicles of violators be towed and impounded. Current law limits police to writing tickets.

Kyle said that policy is more expensive for the city because many violators do not show up for court, forcing police to issue arrest warrants.

On Tuesday, he said, municipal court had 81 no-shows — about half for insurance or license violations.

“It just mushrooms into an excessively expensive governmental operation,” he said. “You have to ask the question: Would they show up in court if we impound their car?”

With 2,165 violations already this year, numbers look to surpass last year’s total by more than 400, but still come in lower than the 2005 total.

Per-capita numbers track about even with Athens, which passed a similar ordinance earlier this year. If just one ticket was issued to each violator, the total would involve more than 7 percent of each city’s population.

Athens police Capt. Marty Bruce said the law will not take effect until Aug. 5. It mandates only the towing of vehicles of unlicensed drivers.

Kyle, whose wife was involved in accidents with two uninsured motorists, said the laws would make Decatur streets safer.

He denied allegations the proposal is in response to increasing numbers of illegal immigrants in Decatur, many of whom cannot get automobile insurance.

“It’s not targeted at anyone except for unlicensed and uninsured drivers,” he said.

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