Auto insurance costs are up, but adjustments were overdue

If you’re still suffering from the headache caused by that hefty increase in your auto insurance premiums, get over it. The reasons for the hike are many, but suffice it to say that whether you live in Summerlin or anywhere else in Las Vegas, the days of relatively cheap auto insurance are in the past.

To begin with, the Legislature had something to do with it. But don’t throw darts at your lawmakers. They were only doing the job we entrusted them with. And that involved a necessary increase in the minimum amount of auto coverage you can buy, keeping in mind that auto insurance is compulsory for all drivers in Nevada.

Formerly that minimum amount was $15,000 for bodily injury for one person in an accident or a total of $30,000 for all parties in the accident, plus $10,000 for all property damaged. But during the 2017 legislative session, lawmakers increased those minimum coverages to a required $25,000/$50,000/$20,000, effective July 1, 2018.

I’m no more eager to pay higher premiums than any of you. But I have to admit that the old minimum, which was established by legislators in 1958, had to be re-examined.

There should be no argument over the Legislature’s hard look at the amount of minimum insurance coverage, which had been in effect for 60 years. After all, even the price of cupcakes has risen substantially since 1958.

In addition, consider that the population of Nevada has grown by almost 1,138 percent during that time, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, from 269,000 in 1958 to an estimated 3.06 million.

More to the point, the population of Clark County, which was hit with the brunt of the auto-rate hikes, has grown from 119,143 in 1959 — one year after the old minimum coverage went into effect — to just over 2.25 million in 2017.

“There are lots of reasons why auto insurance rates in Nevada have gone up, and no single reason by itself,” said Michael Geeser, public affairs director of the Nevada Insurance Council, a nonprofit organization that represents the state’s property and casualty insurance industry.

While some might refer to NIC as a subjective arm of the industry, in essence it is an educational body that works independently to make insurance information available to the public. Geeser has been associated with NIC for several years. Previously, he was an award-winning consumer editor for KLAS-TV, Channel 8.

So why the major increase in insurance rates?

“More vehicles on the roads means more drivers,” said Geeser. “Add that into the 24-hour-a-day nature of the city of Las Vegas, and you have more accidents, more legal actions, higher medical fees, higher attorney fees, higher costs for auto repairs, more expensive auto replacements, and so on.”

As for the state’s increase in the amount of mandatory minimum insurance — to coincide with higher corresponding costs — almost one-third of drivers in Nevada carry only that minimal coverage, representing a sharp rise in cost just for those motorists.

Additionally, the state Department of Motor Vehicles estimates that almost 20 percent of the 1.9 million drivers in Nevada are skirting the law by carrying no insurance, which adds to the burden for responsible drivers who buy uninsured and underinsured coverages to protect themselves.

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, New Jersey. Contact him at hjaffe@cox.net.

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