The results are even more startling when compared to surrounding southern states. Louisiana comes in at an average insurance rate of $1,279.42. Mississippi’s average rate is significantly lower at $898.48, with Arkansas weighing in at $820.00. Highly industrialized Texas is still $260.00 lower at $1013.83. As Vehicles Insurance Magazine observed: “There are a lot of reasons Louisiana is a great place to live, but cheap car insurance isn’t one of them.”
There are a number of factors regularly cited for Louisiana’s high auto insurance costs. Poor roads, car thefts, repair expenses, litigation, a dysfunctional regulatory system, no consumer affairs office to speak up for policyholders; but a major factor is the drivers themselves. How can we put this diplomatically? Many Louisianans are right down lousy drivers.
Drunk driving continues to be rampant all over Louisiana. I made a special effort to read area newspapers for reports of DWI arrests in the past two months, and the news was startling. Third offense drunk driving arrests were often the norm. In Metairie just two weeks ago, a hit and run driver was booked for his 7th DWI. An Abita Springs man was booked recently for his 8th DWI after a hit and run. In Baton Rouge just this week, as local driver was busted for a 7th DWI. And 6 hours after being released from jail, a Duson man got back in his car while drunk again and killed the driver of another car.
Here’s the question. Why were drivers with so many DWIs allowed to be on the road in the first place? Actually, Louisiana has some of the toughest DWI laws in the country. For a third offense DWI, there is no discretion for judges. An offender with three convictions faces a mandatory sentence of two years in jail. And get this – the party convicted is supposed to have their car seized and sold out from under them. But the strong drunk driving laws on the books are often not being implemented.
The problem is one of enforcement. Many judges and prosecutors ignore the law. Often the DWI charge is reduced to careless and reckless driving. And compounding this problem is that computer information systems in one parish are unable to communicate with systems in another parish, so a prosecutor is not aware of previous convictions.
Besides drunk drivers, highway fatalities are directly related to speed. If you want to see how it feels to drive at the Daytona 500, just head on down I-10 to New Orleans from Baton Rouge in the morning or late afternoons. As a test, in my trips along that route, I often set my cruise control on 74 miles’ an hour. The speed limit is 70. Then I count the number of cars that wiz past me, often traveling in excess of 80 mph. I generally quit counting after 100 cars pass me within the first 30 miles of my trip. The same can be said for drivers on I-12, and I-49.
There have been a number of recent complaints about speed traps along I-49 in the towns of Woodworth and Washington. The speed limit is 75 miles an hour, but numerous grumblings, including some by legislators, charge that these towns are writing speeding tickets as a way of financing the town’s budget. So I called my old friend David Butler, the Mayor of Woodworth. He gave me some good advice.
“Jim, here’s the secret to avoiding any so called speed trap,” the Mayor confided. “Are you ready? The speed limit is 75 miles an hour. Don’t go any faster.” Can’t argue with that.
Speeding and drunk driving are key factors in why Louisiana has such high insurance rates. It comes down to driver responsibility and enforcing the laws on the books. The honor of having the nation’s worst drivers is an award the state can do without.
“Do you know what happens when you give a procrastinator a good idea? Nothing.”
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.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.jimbrownusa.com.