News Release

Commissioner Holly C. Bakke

For Immediate Release:   February 28, 2003

For Further Information::  Mary Caffrey - (609) 292-5064
Ellen Lovejoy - (609) 292-5064


TRENTON, N.J. - Banking and Insurance Commissioner Holly C. Bakke today formally extended and modified the "Last Chance" program for uninsured drivers, giving them until March 31, 2003, to take advantage of this opportunity to drive legally. The program was scheduled to expire today, February 28.

"Last Chance," which began in mid-September, waives certain underwriting surcharges for drivers who can only be insured through the residual market, formally known as the New Jersey Personal Automobile Insurance Plan. These drivers, who face the greatest financial hurdles to becoming insured, can save between $115 and $1,035 through the program.

"During this marketplace crisis, we want to do everything we can to help as many people as possible become and remain insured,' Commissioner Bakke said.

Although the Commissioner said the extension will allow more uninsured drivers to become legal, she also noted that the measure addresses only a limited number of drivers. Commissioner Bakke stressed that the comprehensive auto insurance reform plan proposed by Governor James E. McGreevey is necessary to correct the current availability crisis that is plaguing the marketplace and making it difficult for drivers to get policies. Under the current regulatory system, the ability to extend "Last Chance" is one of the few tools available to the Commissioner to address this unprecedented crisis in the marketplace.

"We stand ready to work with the Legislature to get the auto insurance plan passed,'' Commissioner Bakke said. "The situation gets worse every day."

"Many drivers have taken advantage of 'Last Chance,' but more can and should," Commissioner Bakke said. "For many, the biggest obstacle to getting insured is cost. We have taken steps to make sure that low-cost insurance options are available and want to give those still interested in 'Last Chance' a few more weeks to get insured."

In late December, Commissioner Bakke made an initial decision to extend "Last Chance" due to the resistance some drivers have faced when considering the Basic Policy. This low-cost option offers minimum coverage at a price that can be hundreds of dollars below the cost of the Standard coverage most drivers buy.

Originally, only drivers who had been uninsured since September 16, 2002 were eligible for the "Last Chance" program.

Today, Commissioner Bakke modified the program to allow people who were uninsured up until today to also be eligible.

The Commissioner attributed the modification to the fact that drivers whose policies were cancelled since September for failure to pay premiums have probably had a particularly difficult time finding new policies in the current marketplace.

Through February 21, 2003, the number of vehicles that became insured through "Last Chance" was over 31,600.

"We are pleased that thousands of uninsured drivers are now legal," Commissioner Bakke said.

"We hope that our actions will allow thousands more to become legal before March ends."

"Last Chance" waives underwriting surcharges for those who have a conviction for driving uninsured or failed to pay their premium, causing their policy to be canceled. The program waives underwriting surcharges only; all court costs and surcharges to the Division of Motor Vehicles must be paid.