If you get in a car accident, chances that the other motorist is uninsured will depend on where you're driving.
In Oklahoma, you've got a 1 in 4 shot that the other driver will be uninsured, while in Massachusetts, the chance is only 1 in 25.
Nationwide, 12.6 percent of drivers, about 1 in 8, are uninsured, according to the latest data report from the Insurance Research Council.
The report estimates the number of uninsured drivers using auto injury claim data from 2010 to 2012. The data is from nine major insurance companies representing 50 percent of the private passenger vehicle market.
The good news: The portion of uninsured drivers has dropped. The council, which has been issuing reports on uninsured motorists since the 1980s, estimated that more than 16 percent of drivers were uninsured 25 years ago. After 2000, the portion peaked at almost 15 percent in 2003 and has declined in most years since then.
But even though the percentages have dropped, the overall uninsured population is growing as more and more people get behind the wheel. The council estimates almost 30 million U.S. drivers are uninsured. If you fall into this group, consider getting the cheapest car insurance you need to drive legally in your state. That way you won't have to pay for damages and medical bills should you cause an accident and you won't be cited and face fines and suspensions.
Fortunately, uninsured motorist car insurance helps pay the bills if you're involved in an accident with a driver who does not carry insurance. If you’re hit by an uninsured driver and don’t carry collision or uninsured motorist coverage, you would have to pay your own repair bills or go after the at-fault driver in court.
The states with the highest portions of uninsured drivers are:
- Oklahoma: 26 percent
- Florida: 24 percent
- Mississippi: 23 percent
- New Mexico: 22 percent
- Michigan: 21 percent
- Tennessee: 20 percent
- Alabama: 20 percent
- Rhode Island: 17 percent
- Colorado: 16 percent
- Washington: 16 percent
The states with the lowest portion of uninsured drivers:
- Massachusetts: 4 percent
- Maine: 5 percent
- New York: 5 percent
- Utah: 6 percent
- North Dakota: 6 percent
Top 5 states for uninsured drivers
Besides ranking near the top for the portion of uninsured drivers, Florida, is No. 2 for the sheer number of uninsured drivers, second to California, according to the report. The Insurance Research Council estimates 4.1 million California drivers are uninsured, and 3.2 million Florida drivers are uninsured.
Driving without insurance has consequences beyond being liable for damages if you're at fault in an accident. For example, if you're caught driving in the Golden State without California car insurance, you could pay fines of up to $200 and have your car impounded.
Other states in the top five for the number of uninsured drivers are:
Underinsured drivers also an issue
Meanwhile, uninsured drivers aren't the only problem in states like Florida. Many drivers are underinsured, says Lynne McChristian, a Florida spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute. The no-fault state requires drivers carry only $10,000 of personal injury protection insurance and $10,000 of property damage liability insurance. Florida does not require drivers to carry bodily injury liability or uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
"It's understandable that drivers want to cut corners if they lose their jobs or have to settle for a position that doesn't quite pay all the bills," she says. "But failing to carry proper insurance can mean making financial matters even worse if you're in a car crash with someone who has taken the same drastic measures."
So why don't states hike their minimum insurance requirements and toughen their penalties for driving uninsured? It's not that simple. High minimum requirements and stiff penalties aren't correlated with lower rates of uninsured drivers.
The Insurance Research Council, for instance, estimates that 9.3 percent of drivers in New Hampshire are uninsured -- well below the national average of 12.6 percent.
Yet New Hampshire is the only state without a compulsory auto liability law. Other states and the District of Columbia require drivers to carry proof of their ability to pay damages up to or beyond a minimum level, usually with auto insurance. In New Hampshire, drivers must prove they have the financial responsibility to pay for a minimum of injury liability damages only after an accident.
Estimated percentage of uninsured motorists by state