Louisiana Department of Insurance
MONTHLY REPORT
Volume 12, Issue 7
July 2012


Members

Commissioner Jim Donelon
Theodore "Ted" Haik, Jr., Chair
Jeff Albright, Vice Chair

Raymond J. Aleman, Sr.
Lee Ann Alexander
J.E. Brignac, Jr.
Paul Buffone
Anne Cassity
Sheriff Greg Champagne
Representative Greg Cromer

Manuel DePascual
Nick Gautreaux
Michael Guy
Lance "Wes" Hataway
LTC John A. LeBlanc
Senator Eric LaFleur
Ann Metrailer
Robert Moorman
Senator Dan "Blade" Morrish
Chris Roy, Jr.
Representative Kirk Talbot
Earl Taylor


Staff


Terrell B. Moss, Director

David Evans,
Supervisor/Research Analyst

Katie Walsh, Administrative Assist./Research Analyst

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Almost Seven Years Later:
Is New Orleans Prepared for Another Katrina-Type Storm?

Even though it was nearly seven years ago, Hurricane Katrina left behind devastating images that are still vivid in all of our minds.  Floodwalls and levees failed when the strong Category 3 hurricane made landfall in Southeast Louisiana on the morning of August 29, 2005. The storm surge reportedly caused 53 different breaches in the levees, which was only the beginning of several days of destruction that followed.

The hurricane surge protection failures in New Orleans are considered the worst civil engineering disaster in U.S. history, bringing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Army Corps of Engineers under intense criticism.  Katrina has been recorded as the costliest natural disaster in the country’s history, resulting in an estimated $81 billion in total property damage. 

The Corps has been planning and constructing a far more fortified and resilient protection system for the city.  Construction for the updated system began in 2006 and cost a reported $14.5 billion.

The newly constructed 133-mile chain of levees, flood walls, gates and storm-proofed pumps designed to block water surges are vast and impressive.  Specific components of the system include a two-mile “Great Wall” that can seal off the channel from Lake Borgne to the east and the billion-dollar west closure complex, which features the largest constructed pumping station.  A pair of “lift gates,” measuring 50 feet across, can be lowered to block the waters of Lake Pontchartrain. A navigation gate 95 feet wide, whose curved sides weigh 220 tons apiece, can be swung into place and allow easy boat traffic when open.

Perhaps more difficult to repair than the floodwalls is the community’s trust and confidence in the Corps of Engineers to protect the city.  Because New Orleans lies below sea-level, even heavy rainfall may still cause some street flooding. While 100 percent safety and protection cannot be guaranteed, the new system is designed to provide “100-year protection,” meaning that it will prevent the kind of flooding that has a one percent chance of occurring in any given year.  However, Col. Edward R. Fleming, commander of the New Orleans district of the Corps feels confident in the new protection system, reporting that it is “the best system Greater New Orleans has ever had.” 

Hurricane season began June 1st and lasts through November 30th.

New Drivers to be “Schooled”

Older first-time drivers in Louisiana will be spending more time in the classroom and behind the wheel before they can obtain their driver’s license beginning next month.  Senate Bill 667 (Act 425) was passed during the 2012 Regular Session.  The law requires first-time drivers to undergo 30 hours of classroom instruction and eight hours of behind-the-wheel instruction if the new driver is 17 or six hours of classroom instruction and eight hours of behind-the-wheel instruction if the driver is 18 or older.

Current law in Louisiana only requires that 17-year-olds have six hours of classroom instruction to apply for their first driver’s license. The new law will require them to receive the same amount of training required of 16-year-olds. For those aged 18 and older, eight hours of behind-the-wheel driving instruction will be required. Currently, no such instruction is necessary.

Legislators, law enforcement and highway safety groups are hoping the new law will provide new drivers with more instruction and experience, making Louisiana’s roads safer, reducing the number of accidents, lives lost and eventually, auto insurance rates.

Online Auto Insurance Verification May Reduce the Number of Uninsured Motorists

There has been a notable decline of uninsured motorists in Texas over the past year, statistics show.  Information collected indicates that the number of uninsured motorists is down nine percent from last year.  However, 13 percent of drivers (2.6 million Texas residents) are still driving without the state’s minimum insurance requirements. 

The decreased number of uninsured motorists may have resulted from a streamlined program that has updated the state’s driver database and strengthened compliance with the mandatory insurance law.  The TexasSure program, which was implemented in 2009, appears to be “moving in the direction” that the Texas Department of Insurance had hoped for.  Since the implementation of the program, more than 2.2 million letters have been sent out by the insurance department to drivers with a registered car but no auto insurance policy on file.  Drivers are asked to verify insurance and are warned that they are subject to fines and loss of license if they don’t comply with the law. “The rest of Texas drivers can breathe a big sigh of relief that they are now less likely to get into an accident with an uninsured driver. It would appear that the program is becoming a real success,” says Sandra Helin of Southwestern Insurance Information Service.

The state of Alabama is also being proactive about reducing the number of uninsured drivers on their roads.  An online auto insurance verification system is slated to be up and running by January 1, 2013. Currently 10 counties are participating in the pilot system. Alabama’s Revenue Department will be launching the system that will allow license plate officials and law enforcement officers to determine whether a vehicle meets the minimum insurance requirements in the state.

Advances in technology have made verifying auto insurance in real time possible. Budgeting has been a problem for updating the current system in Louisiana. Law enforcement officials are hoping the success of programs like these will reduce the number of uninsured motorists and make the roads safer for other drivers.

Meeting Notice:

The Louisiana Property and Casualty Insurance Commission will meet on Wednesday, August 22nd at 1:30 p.m. in the Hearing Room of the Poydras Building.