Car insurance study finds fault with rates BALTIMORE CITY

January 13, 1993|By Michael A. Fletcher | Michael A. Fletcher,Staff Writer Staff writer William F. Zorzi Jr. contributed to this article.

Only 45 percent of the 35,000 vehicles involved in traffic accidents in Baltimore in 1989 were registered in the city, according to a study that will be used to back efforts to limit the impact geography has on automobile insurance rates.

And while claims resulting from the accidents are supposed to be listed in the area where a vehicle is registered, the study found no method for verifying that the reassignment actually occurs, said the study's author.

Les Ransom, an insurance consultant who wrote the study, also said yesterday that in Maryland, automobile "insurance rates are the highest where the percentage of minority residents is highest."

City Council President Mary Pat Clarke said the data could form the basis of a complaint to the state Human Relations Commission for an probe into the discriminatory impact of so-called territorial rating, which allows insurers to peg insurance premiums to where a driver lives.

Mr. Ransom said at a news conference yesterday that the city-funded study should be released within a week.

Advocates say a nonprofit firm could save city drivers an average of 21 percent on automobile insurance costs, which now average $623 per vehicle. In Baltimore's suburbs, the average insurance premium per car is $348, Mr. Ransom said.

The fund-raising drive is being led by Councilman Melvin L. Stukes, D-6th, whose group is struggling to raise $60,000 to pay for the plans.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has pledged $50,000 in city funds, if the private money is raised by June 30. His original deadline was Dec. 31.

Mr. Schmoke also said that he will propose legislation to the Maryland General Assembly that would limit the disparities in insurance rates created by territorial rating -- based on a plan now in place in Michigan.

The Michigan plan limits the difference in rates between neighboring territories, Mr. Ransom said. Under the city's plan, insurance premiums would be based primarily on driving records and less on territorial rating, which results in exorbitantly high insurance costs for city residents.

But James J. Doyle Jr., a legislative lobbyist for the American Insurance Association, said the rating scheme makes sense because premiums within a territory reflect a company's claims experience in an area.

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