The odds of having an accident involving an uninsured driver continue to rise as new data released by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) found that approximately one in seven motorists on the nation's highways are driving without insurance.
The IRC blames the slight increase in uninsured drivers on the economic downturn, saying that "financially-pressed motorist are allowing their automobile insurance to lapse" in today's troubled economy.
Researcher's with the IRC said the study shows that the number of uninsured drivers, which currently is estimated to be 13.8%, historically rises as the unemployment rate goes up in the U.S. "This forces responsible drivers who carry insurance to bear the burden of paying for injuries caused by drivers who carry no insurance at all," said Elizabeth A. Sprinkel, senior vice president of the IRC.
The IRC's Uninsured Motorist study examined the insurance information of approximately 50 percent of the private passenger vehicles in the U.S, provided by nine major automobile insurers and found that most drivers that do have insurance also carry coverage for uninsured and under-insured motorists, to protect them in case of an accident.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners reported that insured drivers paid $10.8 billion in 2007 to offset the costs for their fellow uninsured drivers, according to USA Today.
The IRC said, "the magnitude of the uninsured motorist problem varies from state to state," with some some states showing as many as one in four drivers are hitting the highway without insurance. Mississippi was found to have the most uninsured drivers where 28 percent of licensed drivers were operating their vehicles without insurance. New Mexico was second at 26 percent, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Florida tied for third with 24 percent of private motor vehicle operators driving without their automobiles being properly insured.
Loretta Worters, vice president of the Insurance Information Institute said that state laws that require mandatory insurance, "have proven ineffective in reducing the numbers of drivers who are uninsured. Some drivers can't afford insurance, and some drivers with surcharges for accidents or serious traffic violations don't want to pay the high premiums that result from a poor driving record. It is costly to track down violators of compulsory insurance laws, and unless the odds of getting caught are high and the penalties severe, drivers will continue to flout the law."