UNTIL WE HEAR BETTER from those members of the D.C. Council who profess an interest in doing something serious about Washington's automobile insurance mess, every motorist, passenger and pedestrian had best proceed with maximum caution on this city's streets: while at least 40 percent of the cars registered in the city remain uninsured, a council committee has just approved a half- baked measure that is hardly what the doctor ordered--but certainly what the lawyers prefer.
This is a legislative game in which you have to watch all the players all the time--because all of them at one time or another have endorsed some vague form of insurance "reform" while most have danced around the issue when pressed.
So far, instead of a no-fault insurance bill that would establish a system of quick, equitable compensation for accident victims and that would require automobile insurance, the bill pasted together by the committee merely would charge uninsured motorists a $250 penalty while leaving the whole matter of compensation for victims right where it is --in the hands of lawyers, who believe that litigation (not to the mention the fees that go with it) is the only great American way to settle all insurance claims.
Now come the promises from certain council members of a better bill from the full council--but you'll just have to wait and see. Chairman Arrington Dixon has vowed to try to replace the committee bill with a no-fault measure that last summer had the support of nine council members. Will all nine stick to pledges--or will they buckle under to the trial lawyers' lobby and fall for some proposal that slaps uninsured motorists on the wrists while doing nothing to establish a no-fault compensation system for accident victims?
Sooner or later--and it has taken far too long already--the roll call will separate the no-fault members from the at-faults.