Viewpoint: March 25, 2009

Louisiana now has the third highest auto insurance rates in the nation. Washington, D.C. is first followed by New Jersey. The average annual rate in Louisiana is $1,254.

There are many reasons for our high rates, but perhaps the most glaring is the fact that auto crashes in Louisiana in 2007 cost the citizens $6.18 billion or approximately $2,177 for every licensed driver in the state. These figures were compiled by the Highway Safety Research Group at LSU's E.J. Ourso College of Business.

The $6 billion figure is dervived from law suits, property damage, hospital, and medical cost. Some local auto insurance companies we spoke to also attributed the high rates to uninsured motorists and minimum liability rates for bodily injury per person, per accident, and property damage better known as the 10/20/10 rule.

Proposals to reduce auto insurance rates are expected to surface in the upcoming legislative session. We hope they're successful, but the root of the problem seems to be highway safety. We have an alarming number of highway deaths and injuries resulting in more lawsuits, more hospitalization, more medical care, and more property damage. So, while we look at reducing rates, let's not forget to focus on the cause.