By Christie Post - email
LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) – A new ordinance to tow uninsured vehicles could soon be on the books. Thursday City Council passed the first reading of the ordinance 6-0. If the ordinance passes in the second reading it could have some people walking.
In May of 2008 other cities in Texas like Dallas, El Paso and Corpus Christi adopted similar ordinances. If you don't have vehicle insurance your ride could be towed. Lubbock could soon follow the lead.
According to the Texas Department of Insurance as of December 2010 one in five vehicles in Lubbock are uninsured. In August 2010 the number of vehicles uninsured was 21.34%, it jumped to 24.4% in December 2010. The state percentage of uninsured vehicles as of December 2010 is 22.9%.
"From the statistics and data that councilman Beane gathered, it is a problem," said Police Chief Dale Holton, Lubbock Police Department.
According to statistics, one in four vehicles in Lubbock do not have insurance. "If this does pass, I would like to dedicate it to the 75% of people in Lubbock that do the right thing, day in and day out," said Councilman Paul Beane, City of Lubbock.
Councilman Paul Beane and Jim Gilbreath are sponsoring the proposed ordinance.
Councilman Victor Hernandez at first opposed the measure, but after discussion weighed the benefits. "You've got to weigh the good with the bad," said Councilman Victor Hernandez, City of Lubbock.
Beane said he was shocked by the overwhelming council members in favor of the ordinance, minus Councilman Floyd Price who was out due to illness.
"Yes perhaps it will cause some hardship, but by taking this action today it will increase awareness and more importantly maybe the compliance of the law," said Councilman Todd Klein, City of Lubbock.
Beane hopes if the ordinance is passed on the second reading it will help curb the problem of uninsured motorists in Lubbock.
"I initially had some concerns about how it would affect our operations. Timing involved with officers waiting for wreckers to impound," said Police Chief Holton.
Right now if you are pulled over by a Lubbock Police officer you can be towed up to his or her discretion on the second offense. If the ordinance is passed on the second reading, an officer can tow an uninsured vehicle on the first offense.
"The more we looked into it the more I felt it was mitigated by the officers discretion," said Police Chief Holton.
But it would not allow a traffic stop for insurance alone. LPD would have the option to tow your vehicle if it's not insured only when they pull someone over after another moving violation, or is in an accident.
"These same people have cell phones, some of them have dish network and so forth and they pay their bills. And that made a huge impact on me," said Councilwoman Karen Gibson, City of Lubbock.
Some critics said there is a lack of due process, but city attorney Sam Medina said it doesn't violate drivers' rights.
The owner could then get the vehicle back after paying costs of towing, notification, impoundment, storage and showing proof of financial responsibility.
So we asked the public what they thought about the ordinance.
"You have to have that insurance. If you don't have insurance, don't drive. It's as simple as that," said Nathaniel Mitchell, in favor of the ordinance.
Most people we spoke to were in favor of the proposal.
"Everybody has got to do it. So if it means saving somebody's life getting hit by an uninsured motorist. Yeah do it," said Patricia Wilson, in favor of the ordinance.
As of now, first time offenders face up to $350 in fines plus court costs. Repeat offenders face $1,000 in fines plus court costs and possible suspension of their license for up to two years. The proposed ordinance would add towing on top of the fines.
The Texas Department of Insurance said it is illegal to drive without insurance.
City Council will vote on the second reading of the ordinance at their next meeting on January 27th. If the ordinance passes on the second reading it will go into effect late February.
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