Big insurers wary of immigrant driver's licenses

2012-12-03T00:00:00Z Big insurers wary of immigrant driver's licensesKurt Ercikson Lee Springfield Bureau nwitimes.com
December 03, 2012 12:00 am  • 

SPRINGFIELD | A proposed new state law could give Illinois insurance companies a quarter of a million new customers.

But, don’t look for the nation’s largest auto insurer to jump into the market if undocumented immigrants get the chance to apply for Illinois driver’s licenses.

Kevin Martin, executive director of the Illinois Insurance Association, said Thursday that companies like Bloomington-based State Farm Insurance Cos. likely will take a cautious approach to offering its products to newly licensed drivers.

“There still seems to be some uneasiness among some of the companies,” Martin said.

The cool industry response comes as the Illinois Senate is expected to vote next week to grant driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. The House is expected to follow suit.

Gov. Pat Quinn has said he’ll sign the legislation, making Illinois the third state in the nation to offer such licenses.

Supporters say such a move could affect as many as 250,000 unlicensed immigrants who cannot get a driver’s license or insurance for their cars.

State Farm officials didn’t want to discuss the proposal Thursday and referred questions to Martin, the industry’s trade representative in the Capitol.

Martin said the large insurance companies he represents applaud efforts to ensure all motorists know the rules of the road and are insured.

But, he said larger companies likely will wait before entering the market in order to give them time to assess the risks of insuring previously unlicensed immigrants.

That likely means smaller, specialty market insurers will offer insurance products to the new licensees, potentially at higher premiums.

At Country Financial, meanwhile, officials say the new license, if approved, will open up a new market for the company.

“As an insurance provider we look to provide an opportunity to cover all legally licensed drivers. That’s as simple as it gets for us,” said Chris Anderson, spokeswoman for the Bloomington-based insurer.

 

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