They fear having to pay anBy Mary Adamski
unequal share because of
driving longer distances
A "pay at the pump" plan was described as a way to equalize insurance costs, but Leeward Oahu residents said they would end up paying an unequal share of the proposed new gasoline tax because they put on more miles.
"An uninsured driver will not be getting away scot-free from bearing the costs which you bear," state Insurance Commissioner Wayne Metcalf said last night. More than 20 percent of Hawaii motorists are not insured, he told the Kapolei crowd of about 130 people.
Metcalf presented the system being proposed by the Motor Vehicle Insurance Task Force at a community meeting called by state Sen. Brian Kanno, co-chairman of the Senate Consumer Protection Committee. But the two officials were unable to answer calls for specifics because the task force report won't be made to the Legislature until mainland actuaries arrive later this week.
All drivers would receive $10,000 personal injury coverage, to be funded by the 9-cent-a-gallon levy on fuel distributors under the plan approved by task force members Metcalf, Tony Takitani and Wesley Yamamoto. A $26 fee would be added to each vehicle registration to help fund the medical coverage.
Motorists would still have automobile insurance policies for other coverage such as bodily injury, property damage, collision, comprehensive and medical coverage beyond the legal limit of $10,000.
"We will be paying for accident costs for people living in Makiki," said Tom Caldwell. "There is no actuarial basis for me to pay three times the rate because I travel three times as far. You need a more even baseline."
Caldwell, a marine consultant, said he has attended legislative hearings on similar plans for years. "We don't have uninsured motorists, we have uninsured vehicles," he said, proposing a solution modeled on the Australian system of tying insurance to vehicle registration.
Another audience member suggested a sticker system similar to the safety checks to identify insured cars.
"The (insurance) industry doesn't want to get into the sticker business," Metcalf responded.
He said a system of credits, similar to discounts given safe drivers, could balance the costs for long-distance drivers.
"This will capture the entire driving population so insured drivers will not be footing the entire bill," Metcalf told the crowd.
But he failed to persuade them. All but about a dozen of the audience raised hands to indicate their opposition to the pay-at-the-pump idea. "We hear you loud and clear," said Kanno (D, Ewa Beach, Makakilo), who has opposed the idea in the past but said he didn't take that stand this year, keeping an open mind to await the task force report.
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