ANNAPOLIS -- The Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund wants permission from state regulators to increase rates for high-risk drivers by more than 27 percent statewide and by more than 49 percent in Baltimore.

Officials said the fund needs the increase to cover the cost of its claims.

If approved in full, the higher premiums would mean that policyholders would have to pay an average of $200 more a year. Those policyholders currently pay about $1,200 a year.

In Baltimore, the increase could be as high as $671 annually.

MAIF is a quasi-public insurance company created by the General Assembly in an attempt to reduce uninsured claims.

The average privately insured driver in Maryland pays about $500 a year for car insurance, although rates for drivers in Baltimore or other areas that are considered high-risk are much higher.

Marylanders not insured by MAIF cover the fund's annual shortfall through the payment of a surcharge on their car insurance policies.

The size of the surcharge varies from year to year, but currently good drivers are required to pay about 0.9 percent, or about $5 to $10 more a year, to help cover insurance for "bad drivers."

MAIF insures about 110,000 Maryland motorists.

MAIF began a three-year program to make the premiums it collects match the claims it pays. In 1985, MAIF rates went up 15.2 percent, and last year they were raised again by 33.2 percent.

Howley acknowledged that if this year's rate increase is approved by state Insurance Commissioner Edward Muhl, some MAIF policyholders will find the higher rates unaffordable and will drive illegally without insurance.

"That is probably a reasonably good possibility," Howley said.