Uninsured Drivers Raise Costs, Risks for Law-Abiding Drivers
In every state except New Hampshire, drivers are required to carry liability insurance. It’s generally a crime to drive without state-required liability insurance, yet about one in every seven motorists on the nation’s highways lacks this supposedly compulsory insurance. Non-compliance levels vary widely among states: a 2011 insurance industry study using 2009 data put the national average for uninsured motorists at 13.8% (from 28% for Mississippi drivers and 26% in New Mexico, down to 4.5% in Massachusetts and Maine.) At 15%, the District of Columbia and Maryland were above the national average, while Virginia at 11% was below.
Why do so many drivers fail to carry required insurance? Some are driving illegally, with a revoked or suspended license or no license at all. Other drivers may calculate that paying fines for driving without insurance is less costly than paying lower than insurance premiums. In a recent survey, over 40% of uninsured drivers said they couldn’t afford insurance, or complained that it was too expensive.
Whatever the reason, drivers who obey the motorist insurance laws pay more, and face greater risks, due to uninsured drivers. Some states require basic auto insurance policies to include uninsured motorist (UM) coverage, to pay for damages and injuries from accidents caused by an uninsured driver. In states where UM coverage is not required, many motorists add it to their policies. As far back as 2007, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners estimated that law-abiding motorists paid $10.8 billion annually in higher insurance costs due to uninsured drivers.
Incredibly, some states still don’t require vehicle owners to show proof of insurance. Also, since some drivers buy insurance when registering a vehicle, then cancel it, a uniform, easy-to-use notification system is needed in order to inform states when auto insurance policies are canceled. Penalties for uninsured drivers can be increased. Some states are also experimenting with other approaches. California has tried, with limited success, to create affordable insurance options for low-income drivers.
Until the uninsured driver problem is fixed, smart motorists should ensure that they have adequate UM insurance, and consult an experienced auto accident injury lawyer if they are in an accident with an uninsured driver. In order to protect you and your family, we suggest that you have at least $250,000.00 in uninsured motorist coverage. If your own liability insurance carrier will sell you higher limits of coverage, it is wise to purchase that coverage if you can afford it.