Lawmakers ask high court to review auto insurance differences

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Sacramento Bee

SACRAMENTO (AP) — Several lawmakers urged the California Supreme Court on Tuesday to review a state insurance regulation that allows good drivers to be charged differently depending where they live.

More than 15 legislators, consumer groups and local governments said a 1988 voter-approved initiative requires rates to be based on driving records, not a motorist’s address.

“Good drivers in urban areas are subsidizing bad drivers who drive a lot of miles. It doesn’t make sense and doesn’t comply with the will of the voters,” said Doug Heller with the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.

Insurance industry representatives said changing the auto insurance rates will mean dramatic rate increases for people living in all but seven California counties with large urban areas.

Inyo County could see rate increases as high as 85.5 percent if geographic rates are changed, said Jerry Davies, spokesman for the Personal Insurance Federation of California.

Residents in urban counties are much more likely to have car accidents than their rural counterparts and those wrecks are usually more serious, he said.

The only counties that would see rate decreases are Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and Ventura, Davies said.

Those decreases could range from 18.2 percent in Los Angeles County to 2.4 percent in Ventura County.

Insurance Commissioner Harry Low said last week that he believed current law is murky enough to allow the geographic rates.

The rates were backed by former Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush, who resigned from office last year amid reports that he used fines assessed to insurance companies to further his political career.

Low, who replaced Quackenbush, has asked the court not to review the regulations but said he has not decided if he will revise the law if it is upheld by the courts.

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