ALONG THE DISTRICT'S borders--for all to see--there should be large road signs warning all comers: "Danger Everywhere--Uninsured Motorists." Not only are motorists, passengers and pedestrians taking their lives in hand when they move about this city's streets, they are risking frightening financial damage and huge legal bills. About half of the motorists in the District have no car insurance. And until the D.C. Council enacts a genuine no-fault insurance law that guarantees direct, swift compensation for all victims and that makes such insurance mandatory, it's strictly Russian roulette in traffic here.
There is word that action is forthcoming, however, and it can't come a moment too soon. Wilhelmina J. Rolark, who heads the council committee to which no-fault legislation has been sent for years, has said that a bill will be produced before the end of this year. That end is not far off, making Mrs. Rolark's pledge all the more important.
Equally important is the kind of bill that emerges. To be at all effective in compensating victims, the legislation must provide for the genuine no-fault system that is being sought all around the country by a broad coalition that includes organizations representing business, labor, the elderly, consumers and just about anyone else who has been through the legal wringer of lawyers, suits and counter suits.
Merely making insurance mandatory--without establishing a no-fault system--would do nothing to get rid of unnecessary legal fees attached to what those who reap these fees refer to so reverently as "the right to sue." There is a more widespread and immediate right to fast, fair and direct compensation for the majority of personal injury claims. And this, apparently, is what a majority of council members would like to ensure. They await such a bill from the committee, and they should insist that it not be a lawyers' bonanza, but a no-fault bill that will put some meaning into the word "coverage" for premium-payers as well as anyone else injured in traffic.