If it sounds too good to be true, it is — yet again
Proposition 17 is full of fuzzy promises, and voters have good
reason to be confused and concerned. Ultimately, those concerns should
translate into a no vote.
As with Proposition 16, which is bankrolled by PG&E, Proposition
17 is almost entirely funded by one special interest — Mercury
Insurance Co. — under the pretense of benefiting consumers.
It doesn’t. Not in the long run.
Proposition 17 would tweak existing law to permit insurance
companies to offer a discount to drivers who have continuously
maintained their insurance coverage for at least five years. Right now,
insurance companies are prohibited from offering that “continuous
coverage” discount if drivers switch companies.
Proponents contend that the discount would promote competition and
save good drivers up to $250 a year. So, what’s not to like?
Plenty. Here’s the problem. In California, one person’s discount is
most likely going to end up being another person’s surcharge.
As a result, Proposition 17 will only make it more difficult and
more expensive for uninsured drivers — including those who have allowed
their coverage to lapse for 90 days due to unemployment, college,
stateside military service or a number of other reasons — to obtain
That means that whatever short-term benefit drivers may gain by this
measure would be wiped out by the long-term risk and increased costs
of accidents involving uninsured motorists. Sonoma County has enough of
those out on the streets as it is.
The state should be doing more to help uninsured drivers obtain
coverage, not laying more traps to ensure they stay away.
This is why so many consumer organizations across the state,
including Consumers Union and Consumer Watchdog, are opposed to
Proposition 17. The California Community College trustees also recently
came out in opposition, noting the measure’s “disproportionate impact”
on low-income Californians, including many community college students.
Mercury Insurance, the third largest carrier in the state, argues
that the company is only looking out for the best interests of drivers.
Color us skeptical.
What’s lost in this discussion is that the primary factors that
determine insurance rates are driver safety, the number of miles driven
per year and years of driving experience. “Continuous coverage” is
just one of 16 optional rating factors that insurance companies can use
to reward and lure customers.
If insurance companies really want to reward good drivers, they have
the tools in hand to do so.
The Press Democrat recommends a no vote on Proposition 17.