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Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Baton Rouge, Louisiana


My home state of Louisiana again has the distinction of having the most expensive auto insurance rates in the nation.  Forbes magazine just released national figures indicating that not only do Louisiana’s drivers pay more than drivers in any other state in the country, but the costs are higher by a wide margin.

The figures that rank Louisiana number one show that the average cost to insure a car for a Louisiana driver is $2536.  That’s almost $500 dollars more than Oklahoma, the next highest state, which comes in at $2047.  In Alabama, drivers pay an average of $1345.  In Arkansas, the figure is $1334.  Our neighbors in Mississippi pay $1502.  Texas comes in a little higher than the southern average at $1661, but it’s still considerably cheaper to drive a car there than in the Bayou State. Louisiana drivers pay double the average insurance cost throughout the south.

ana has led the country in high rates for the past decade.  And the root causes have not changed — too many drunk drivers, uninsured drivers, unskilled drivers, poor roads and a lack of strong regulation. The Louisiana legislature kicked off its 2012 session just this week.  One would think that with such an insurance cost drain on the state populace, there would be numerous proposals to address the long list of causation. But Louisiana drivers should not get their hopes up.

Drunk driving seems to be at an all time high.  Louisiana is known worldwide for partying and drinking at all hours of the day and night. The local chant is le ze la bon ton roulette — let the good times roll. A friend was visiting from out west and was astounded to see drive through daiquiri shops open all night long. The results of this lax “drinking and driving” attitude show up in the accident statistics. Over 50% of all serious injuries and deaths in auto accidents involve drunk drivers.

Just days ago in the New Orleans area, a fellow was arrested for his 8th DWI.  No, that’s not  a mistake. The 8th. What happened at 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 when one would expect that someone would say, “Hey, something’s wrong here.  Enough is enough.  Get this guy off the road.” And what about the driver just north of New Orleans who was charged with his 4th DWI in the past five months, alone?

The state police, to their credit, maintain a statewide data base for all criminal charges and convictions. But the data is only as good as its maintenance, and a number of local law enforcement jurisdictions do not keep the information current. Charges slip through the cracks, and this is why a driver can get multiple DWIs and still get behind the wheel.  In various law enforcement jurisdictions, the right hand often does not know what the left hand is doing.

State laws mandate jail time, the loss of license, and mandatory sale of the driver’s vehicle in the case of the third offense DWI.  Unfortunately, these provisions are rarely enforced in many local courts.  When the information is there, and the driver is convicted, under the law he should pay the price, but all too often, he doesn’t. It comes down to inconsistent enforcement.

Another factor contributing to Louisiana’s highest in the nation insurance rates: Louisiana has a large number of uninsured drivers.  Louisiana Insurance officials will tell you that only 10 to 15% of Louisiana drivers are uninsured. But the actual percentage of uninsured drivers is much higher according to the insurance industry authorities. And State troopers readily acknowledge that the number of uninsured drivers is above 30%.

That means that it is a necessity to carry uninsured motorist coverage that often is more than one third of the total premium cost. The legislature in Louisiana compounded the problem last year by passing a law stopping the impoundment of vehicles that are not insured.  So the numbers of the uninsured continue to increase and will likely cause the Louisiana driver’s premium to increase even more.

Here’s another list where Louisiana is number one. The National Car Insurance Comparison guide was just released, and surprise, surprise –The Bayou State leads the nation in lousy drivers.  There is an insubstantial early driver training system in place, with few high schools even offering driver’s education. Kids tell me that many of the private courses are a joke, with plenty of texting and playing video games, little training, and no final exam.  The same study listed Louisiana in a tie with Montana as the most dangerous place to drive in the United States.

Road conditions? Still, yet, another first place prize. Reader’s Digest recently listed Louisiana as having the worst roads in America. .  If they gave out awards for all this stuff, you would wonder where the trophies for all these worst lists would be kept.  After all, the state capitol in Baton Rouge is only 28 stories tall.

Lobbyists and close observers of the legislative scene do not expect any significant insurance reforms to come out of this current legislative session.  So, for the time being, Louisiana is secure in holding down the number one spot in virtually every category of bad news for those who were hoping for insurance rates to come down.  At the state capitol, there is definitely a way.  But for now, there is just no will.


If you think nobody cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple of car insurance payments.”     ~Earl Wilson

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the country.   You can read past columns and see continuing updates at www.jimbrownla.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownla.com.

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