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Hawaii bill that would increase automobile insurance draws ire

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(The Center Square) – The Hawaii House Committee on Transportation will hear testimony on a bill Thursday that would raise automobile rates for some motorists.

Senate Bill 2342 would require increases in liability coverage from $20,000 to $50,000 per person, with the aggregate limit jumping from $40,000 to $100,000.

Motorists would be required to have accidental harm coverage for a person at not less than $75,000 and not less than $40,000 for property damage.

The Senate passed the bill 23-2, with Republican Sens. Brenton Awa and Kurt Fevella casting the lone “no” votes.

The bill would also increase penalties for some traffic offenses, including excessive speeding and reckless driving.

Lawmakers heard from accident victims who said the current limits were not enough to cover their medical bills.

Renee Kahoʻoilihala was struck by a vehicle in 2020, according to testimony.

“The suspect who struck me had minimum coverage which was insufficient to cover my medical expenses which totaled $57,115.84 even without surgery for my fractured pelvis,” Kahoʻoilihala said. “The reality is that you never know how low $20,000 in motor vehicle insurance is until an accident happens to you.”

The American Property Casualty Insurance Association of America is opposed to the bill.

“Consumers are already facing insurance premium increases due to the unparalleled inflation insurers are facing,” said APICA vice president Mark Sektnan in written testimony. “This bill would only increase inflation, and insurance premiums at a time when the citizens of Hawaii are already confronting inflation rates not seen in the last 40 years and record high gas prices at the pump, it is absolutely the wrong time to require drivers to spend more on auto insurance.”

The Hawaii Department of Transportation supports the bill “as it seeks to reduce traffic fatalities and injuries by increasing penalties for those who do not have motor vehicle insurance, as well as those who continue to violate traffic laws,” according to testimony.

An identical bill, House Bill 1539, passed the House last week, with five representatives voting “no.” The Senate Committee on Transportation and Culture Arts will also hold a hearing on Thursday.