For the second time in a week a senator has asked Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James II to delay the start of compulsory auto insurance until an alternative method of insuring the territory’s drivers can be devised.
In a letter Thursday, Sen. Adelbert Bryan recommended that James, who also serves as the commissioner of Banking and Insurance, consider a government-operated proposal that insures the license of each driver rather than motor vehicles.
Bryan said that his proposal would meet the objective of compulsory auto insurance, set to begin Feb. 13, and at the same time would keep profits in the territory. He asked James to delay the start of the law 60 to 90 days.
A recent report done by the Division of Banking and Insurance estimated the average premiums for drivers on St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John at $332.88, $293.53 and $253.73 respectively.
In explaining his insurance proposal, Bryan blasted the varying costs of auto insurance premiums on the three islands, calling them "outright discriminatory." He said that because St. Croix has "better roads, more roads and a not-so-hostile terrain (very few hills or steep areas)…" than St. Thomas and St. John, premiums should be cheaper.
Instead of having insurance carriers provide premiums, Bryan proposed that the territory’s 80,000 motorists with licenses be covered by a "blanket comprehensive liability policy" purchased by the government.
Bryan said the program would be funded by each motorist paying $200, for a total annual projected premium of approximately $16 million. In the Division of Banking and Insurance’s report, it was estimated that the total project premiums would be about $19.8 million.
The gross profits generated in Bryan’s proposal would be placed in an insurance fund that would service claims.
"This will represent new revenues for the territory rather than generating profits for outside insurance carriers," Bryan said. "Any motorist who wish to carry additional insurance coverage may choose to do so."
Bryan told James that because 90 percent of the insurance carriers in the territory are based elsewhere, much of the revenue generated from the law would leave the local economy.
"Once again it appears that you, the governor, the majority caucus of the Legislature and the insurance carriers have devised a scheme to defraud the people of the Virgin Islands, under the guise of providing compulsory automobile insurance coverage," Bryan wrote.
James didn’t immediately return phone calls on Friday.
Earlier in the week, Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen requested that James hold off implementing compulsory insurance until she could devise a less expensive way to insure drivers. In her correspondence with James, Hansen mentioned a government-run insurance scheme; however, she didn’t offer any specifics.
Hansen also told James that she had already begun efforts to have the mandatory insurance law repealed.


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