About one in eight drivers on the road in 2015 was uninsured, according to the latest data from the Insurance Research Council (IRC). The nationwide uninsured motorist (UM) rate increased from 12.3 percent in 2010 to 13 percent in 2015. Uninsured motorist rates varied substantially among individual states, ranging from 4.5 percent in Maine to 26.7 percent in Florida.
The IRC report, Uninsured Motorists, 2017 Edition, examines data collected from 14 insurers representing approximately 60 percent of the private passenger auto insurance market in 2015.
If you are among those driving without a car insurance policy in place, 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.
If you do have insurance but you’re involved in an accident with a driver who doesn’t, uninsured motorist car insurance helps pay the bills. 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.
Driving without insurance has consequences beyond being liable for damages if you're at fault in an accident. There are penalties for driving without insurance in every state, which typically involves fines of several hundred dollars and the potential to have your license and registration suspended.
In 20 states and the District of Columbia drivers are required by state auto insurance laws to have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. More than half of the states have passed laws and begun to develop and implement online auto insurance verification systems to identify uninsured motorists, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
States with the highest and lowest estimated percentage of uninsured drivers
|Rank||State||% uninsured||Rank||State||% uninsured|
* Percentage of uninsured drivers, as measured by the ratio of uninsured motorists (UM) claims to bodily injury (BI) claim frequencies.
Source: Insurance Research Council.
Estimated percentage of uninsured motorists by state
*Percentage of uninsured drivers, as measured by the ratio of uninsured motorists (UM) claims to bodily injury (BI) claim frequencies.
Rank calculated from unrounded data.
In Florida, compulsory auto laws apply to personal injury protection (PIP) and physical damage, but not to third-party bodily injury coverage.
Source: Insurance Research Council.
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 9.9 percent of drivers in New Hampshire are uninsured -- well below the national average of 13 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.