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Arizona Go. Ducey Vetoes Bill Requiring More Car Insurance

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey vetoed a bill that would have doubled the minimum amount of insurance needed to drive on Arizona roads.

"I am open to the idea of revising our minimum liability limits,'' the governor said in his veto message.

But Ducey also expressed concern that increasing those limits beyond current law, which was enacted in 1972, would make insurance less affordable for those at the bottom of the income scale.

Car insurance is required under state law and a fist-time violation carries a $500 minimum penalty. But gubernatorial spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said the bill would lead to more people skipping insurance, “and then everybody's rates are going to go up, not only those who have the limits but everyone else because you have more people driving who aren't insured. And that's going to impact other people's deductibles if they're in an accident with one of them."

Current law requires motorists to purchase so-called 15/30/10 coverage: $15,000 for injuries to any one person, $30,000 for all injuries from the same mishap, and $10,000 in property damage, usually the other motorist's vehicle.

The main backer of the bill, State Senator Kate Brophy McGee (R-Phx), said the current standard isn’t in line with the modern cost of accidents.

During debate on the measure Brophy McGee said actual figures gathered by the state Department of Transportation put the average actual losses from a motor vehicle accident resulting in death in excess of $1.5 million. For other injuries, she said, the figure approaches $93,000.

And Brophy McGee said the typical property damage done exceeds $11,500 — all more than what motorists need to carry.

Attorney Geoff Trachtenberg acknowledged during legislative hearings that the higher limits would raise the premiums by $91 a year for motorists who now buy the minimum. But he said lawmakers should consider the trade-offs.

For example, he said, if at-fault motorists have more insurance, that will enable the health insurance companies of those they injure to recoup some of their costs from the at-fault motorist — or at least that person's insurer.

That includes the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System which provides health coverage for those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, about $28,700 for a family of three.

Trachtenberg also said if people have more insurance, that should lower the premiums for under-insured motorist coverage. That is optional insurance that motorists can buy to protect themselves if they are in an accident with someone whose coverage does not cover their full medical costs.

Capitol Media Services contributed to this report.

News Business
Claire Caulfield was a reporter and Morning Edition producer from 2015 to 2019.