The word "mandatory," when used in the context of a law, means "permitting no option not to be disregarded or modified."
Alabama has had a "mandatory" vehicle liability insurance law for more than a decade but not really. What makes a mandatory insurance law work is strong enforcement and instant verification.
Law enforcement officers have done a pretty good job on enforcement. If a motorist is stopped, an officer will likely make him produce proof of insurance along with a driver license.
An uninsured driver can show a law officer a "valid" insurance card and have no insurance in place at all. The vehicle owner buys an insurance policy, gets a card indicating insurance in place, then cancels the policy. The "valid" insurance card doesn't suddenly disappear from the irresponsible driver's wallet.
The loophole has been in verification, and that has changed.
The state has started enforcing a law that allows instant insurance verification. The new system, overseen by the state Department of Revenue, has been a long time coming.
Thanks to a law sponsored by state Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, the owners of the estimated 900,000 Alabama vehicles without insurance are more likely to get caught.
Let's hope so. One of the top complaints received at the state Insurance Department comes from people who have been in a car crash with someone who is uninsured. ...
Finally, vehicle liability insurance is truly becoming mandatory in Alabama.
Punishments should mirror the severity of the offense, but Alabama's law against texting while driving levies only a $25 fine for a first offense, $50 for a second and $75 for each subsequent offense. Each conviction also carries a two-point penalty on a license. Those penalties are not enough to get the attention of many drivers.
Alabama's texting-while-driving law took effect in August and since then state troopers have written 59 texting-related citations.
There's no way to tell how many drivers have texted while behind the wheel, but we're betting the number of citations touches only a small percentage of offenders. Troopers patrol rural areas more than they do urban ones, so local law enforcement agencies need to step up their enforcement efforts.
Higher penalties for something that many of us have done may seem extreme, but someone who has lost a loved one because of a distracted driver might not think so.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2009 estimated that distracted driving and texting is a leading cause of distracted driving caused 15 deaths and 1,200 injuries a day. We'll do the math for you. That's 5,475 deaths and 438,000 injuries a year.
We can't help but think stronger penalties would go further to curtail the problem. We're not advocating making texting from behind the wheel a felony, but doubling the fines might be in order.