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Wisconsin State Roundup

September 1, 2009


Drivers in Wisconsin might feel both better protected and poorer next summer, when a new state law goes into effect mandating car insurance for all residents.

Starting in June of next year, it will be a crime for state drivers to go without car insurance, complete with a $500 fine. However, some might be willing to roll the dice, as the only enforcement mechanism is a check by police during a traffic violation. Drivers will be expected to carry proof of insurance; a small fine of $10 will be doled out for those who have insurance but no proof. The law doesn’t yet specify how exactly police will be able to determine who has insurance but isn’t carrying it and who is simply lying. Drivers will also be required to carry underinsured motorist coverage.

The new law might feel like a drastic step, but Wisconsin is simply catching up: 48 other states currently mandate car insurance. New Hampshire is now the lone holdout.

Critics argue the new law hurts low income drivers, who can’t afford the hundreds of dollars in new insurance and are likely to continue doing without. Ironically, the law might do little to provide universal insurance protection. In 2007, 15 percent of drivers in Wisconsin were uninsured, according to the Insurance Research Council. That was only a shade less than the 13.8 percent for those states with mandatory insurance laws.

photo of Ronald A. Wirtz
Ronald A. Wirtz
Editor, fedgazette

Ron Wirtz is a regional outreach director at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Ron’s primary responsibilities involve tracking current business conditions, with a focus on employment and wages, along with sector-tracking in construction, real estate, consumer spending and tourism. In this role, Ron networks with local businesses in a six-state region, both in person and via various communication channels, and gathers other traditional and nontraditional sources of information to assess current business activity. Ron also gives customized speeches on regional economic activity, and handles advance planning for regular outreach trips to Ninth District communities by Bank President Neel Kashkari. Prior to this role, Ron was the long-time editor of the fedgazette, the Bank’s regional business and economics publication, where he conducted research on such topics as employment trends, health care pricing and consolidation, housing, entrepreneurship, public pensions, income mobility, the Bakken oil boom and other topics.