All Utah drivers have a new reason to hold auto insurance: A state law that took effect May 5 allows for the impound of uninsured vehicles.

And those who use driving privilege cards will soon have another compelling reason to buy insurance. Starting July 1, driving privilege card holders who aren't insured could see their cards suspended.

The cards are issued to those who don't have a Social Security number, which is required to get a driver's license.

Many driving privilege card holders are undocumented immigrants, and Latino community activist Tony Yapias has been working overtime to get the word out about the new laws — through Spanish language radio, television and e-mail.

"It's just important that everybody is insured," Yapias said. "We're all safer when everybody is insured."

A legislative audit released during the past legislative session found that 76 percent of the 34,800 driving privilege card holders were insured in 2007. That compares to 82 percent of driver's license holders.

It's too early to tell if the new laws have boosted insurance rates, said Sgt. Jeff Nigbur, spokesman for the Utah Department of Public Safety.

"We've already seen an (insurance) increase since the driving privilege card came out," Nigbur said. "We feel that's a really good thing. The more people insured out there the better."

During the past legislative session, lawmakers opted to tighten the driving privilege card through a measure that added the insurance provision as well as preventing the card from being used as identification or age verification.

However, Rep. Glenn Donnelson, R-North Ogden, was among those who had called for an outright repeal of the law, saying the identification requirements for the card aren't as secure as for a driver's license.

And, Donnelson is doubtful the new laws will boost the number of insured driving privilege card holders, particularly since the number of card holders is far smaller than the Pew Hispanic Center's estimate that up to 100,000 undocumented immigrants live in Utah.

"They're not walking ... they just don't have a driving privilege card," Donnelson said. "It's not going to affect it."


E-mail: dbulkeley@desnews.com