CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If West Virginia drivers were forced to pay more for mandatory minimum vehicle insurance, more of them would drive without any coverage at all, an insurance industry representative told legislators Tuesday.
"It will have the effect of pushing people into the uninsured population," Jill Rice, president of the West Virginia Insurance Federation, said of proposed legislation to raise minimum coverage for bodily injury and property damage.
Currently, West Virginia drivers must have at least $20,000 worth of coverage for bodily injury to one person, $40,000 for injury to two or more people, and $10,000 for property damage.
Earlier this year, state senators took up a bill (SB443) to raise those minimums to $25,000, $50,000, and $25,000. The bill passed the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, but was never acted on in Judiciary Committee.
On Tuesday, Rice said that legislation would increase premiums for drivers carrying minimum coverage by between $24 and $71 a year.
That could be enough to lead many low-income drivers who can barely afford current minimum coverage to drive uninsured, she said.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, requested data on what percent of drivers currently carry minimum coverage.
"I think we need to understand how many people would be impacted if we do this," Palumbo said.
Rice said she did not have that figure, but said she understood anecdotally that about 17 percent of state drivers are at the minimum.