Sunday, April 13, 2008

Surprises still

The New Zealand government is considering requiring that all drivers be required to carry third party insurance, at a minimum. Apparently, New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t have a mandatory insurance system.

Some thirty years ago, New Zealanders approved ACC, which includes what is essentially a “no fault” insurance system for accidents and injury. If you’re hurt in a car accident, for example, you’ll be treated and won’t have to try and get the other person to pay for it if they caused the accident. It’s a good system.

But that doesn’t cover damage to the car. Transport Safety Minister Harry Duynhoven says that about a third of New Zealanders have no insurance, meaning the insurance industry has to spend millions and millions each year to try and collect from uninsured drivers.

When I lived in Illinois, we had similar system of minimum compulsory insurance. Called “liability insurance”, this covered drivers for any damage they caused to other cars or property, but not to their own.

Here in New Zealand, Duynhoven feels that the system will encourage young drivers to be more responsible in order to get lower insurance premiums. This was the case in Illinois. Insurance companies offered discounts to young people who completed an authorised driver training course, and discounts to students who maintained at least a “B” average in their grades. I got both discounts, much to my parents’ relief.

What surprised me, though, was that I assumed there already was compulsory insurance. So, naturally, I think requiring it is a good idea. But it just goes to show that there are still opportunities to be surprised by what I don’t know about my new home. In a way, that’s kind of nice.

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