I was driving home the other night when bits of the news caught my attention. Someone was putting a bill together to raise the fine retailers pay if they are caught selling cigarettes to minors. I didn’t catch the beginning of the story, but apparently the fine has been $50 for a number of years. Based on cost of living increases some legislator figures the fee should be at least $98 and has put together a bill to get it raised to $100.
Now I’m all for fining organizations that sell smokes to minors and I’m glad that someone noticed and is doing something to make it less attractive to do so. But I can’t help but compare that problem to the minimum insurance levels mandated for injury and death caused by commercial trucks and the total lack of attention this issue has received.
In 1980 as Congress deregulated the trucking industry they set a minimum level of insurance mandated by a trucking company at $750,000. In the past thirty years that minimum has never been increased. And to make matters worse, the $750,000 is paid out per incident, no matter how many people are injured or killed. Many companies, mostly larger commercial carriers, do carry more than the minimum, but smaller companies and many independents carry only as much as they have to.
So lets say the trucking company that hits your car carries a million dollars of insurance. Sounds like a lot doesn’t it. Lets says someone in your car has a traumatic brain injury, spends a month or more in intensive care, and many more months in rehab. How far do you think that million will go? Or maybe the truck that hits your car also careens into 2 or three more cars. Maybe multiple people are injured or killed. That million dollars has to be split up among everyone. Do you think any one of those affected is worth less because they are one of many involved? I didn’t think so.
We have members of our truck safety family who have turned over their share of the insurance, money won to compensate them for the death of their son, to the one survivor of the crash, someone in another family, a stranger, because she needs the money for care and will need that care the rest of her life. That’s the kind of families that are touched by these crashes. Really great, compassionate people.
So all of this has been swirling around in my head the last few days. There’s a bill to raise the fine for selling cigarettes, but we can’t get a bill introduced to increase the mandated minimum amount of insurance for commercial carriers. It makes no sense to me.
And it makes even less sense when I learn of a terrible crash that happened in Indiana a couple of weeks ago. Seven members of the same family were killed; two young mothers, their four children and an uncle. Hit from behind by a careless, probably speeding, driver who already had speeding infractions on his license. Someone that shouldn’t have been driving at all. A company that only has to pay, by law, $ 750,000 to the family if they are found at fault. A family that will never, ever be whole. A company that likely considers the payout a cost of doing business. The only thing that makes a commercial truck company take notice is a large monetary loss. These days $750K is chump change.
Unfortunately the chumps are us.