State rep. introduces pothole bill to stop insurance hikes

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published May 7, 2014

State Rep. Marilyn Lane (D-Fraser) has introduced a bill that aims to help drivers’ insurance rates from climbing.

House Bill 5456 aims to prevent insurance companies from raising auto insurance rates when a driver submits a claim due to pothole damage.

The bill was proposed as a means of dealing with vehicle damage due to strenuous road conditions, as well as not having increased premiums as a result.

Lane said that the challenges drivers face in Michigan in regards to road conditions are increasing, and the conversation has shifted to not only what determines wrongful damage, but also the general state of the infrastructure.

“Potholes are an act of mother nature,” Lane said. “This historical winter has wreaked havoc on our roads. The argument is that it will raise premiums for other people if this passes, but my question is, when have premiums gone down?”

Lane sees no reason a motorist would have to pay a one-year or two-year surcharge for damage accumulated by potholes that are not their fault.

She added that the ratio of Democrats and Republicans is about 50-50, in terms of supporting her proposed bill, citing good bipartisanship for an issue that is not really all that political in the first place.

Rep. Jon Switalski (D-Warren) co-sponsored the bill because, in his words, people are paying too much for insurance as it is and the semantics of insurance rates are unfairly treating motorists.

“If you have a certain amount of damage, your car insurance can classify it as a collision because it’s a certain amount of cost,” Switalski said. “They can recoup the costs by claiming it’s a collision and charging you more with an increased premium.

“The state of Michigan has under-invested in infrastructure for decades. We have not put enough — we allow trucks to be too heavy, have not charged them more, and revenues have gone down because consumption is down, gas is too expensive. … We need higher quality standards and more guarantees.”

Switalski doesn’t believe the bill will have an overall effect on insurance companies, but he thinks it’s a good place to start.

So does Lane, who said that a pothole patch is not a fix because once winter arrives, the same problem will happen all over again. It’s a “windfall for tire companies,” but the contributions to the state economy are bare.

Lane also proposed a bill that would reduce weight loads on certain vehicles as a means of alleviating pressure on the concrete, thus creating fewer potholes, in theory.

The bill is first introduced to the House Insurance Committee, and then it’s up to the chairman to see if the committee will hear concerns and have testimony take place. If that is successful, the bill will reach the House floor.

“It’s strictly damages, premiums, money; what about safety?” Lane said. “Do we veer, do we head straight on? It’s about the safety of our roads.

“Roads are not a sexy item, and now it just costs us more and more. Lansing needs more courage and not put (pressure) on cities, and even counties, to maintain the entire infrastructure.”