Overall Rate of Uninsured Drivers Nationally Remains Flat

Overall Rate of Uninsured Drivers Nationally Remains Flat

Efforts to crack down on uninsured motorists in the U.S. appear to be having little effect, according to the most recent findings from the Insurance Research Council (IRC).

In a report updated every three or four years, the IRC in April estimated one in eight drivers on the road in 2019---12.6%---lacked insurance. That’s down from 13% in 2015, but up from 12.3% in 2010.

The figure potentially impacts collision repairers in that insured vehicles are more likely to be repaired after an accident, and because at-fault drivers who lack insurance increase insurance costs for those with policies.

But state law regulates insurance, including enforcement of insurance requirements for drivers, and the rate of uninsured drivers varies widely by state, according to IRC data.

Just 3.1% of New Jersey drivers lacked insurance in 2019---down significantly from 14.9% in 2015---but at the other end of the spectrum, nearly three in 10 drivers (29.4%) in Mississippi were driving uninsured. That was up from 23.7% in 2015, which doesn’t bode well, given the state implemented an insurance verification system for traffic stops in 2017 and further toughened penalties for driving uninsured in 2018.

Tennessee similarly launched an insurance verification system in 2017, but saw the percentage of uninsured drivers there rise from 20% in 2015 to 23.7% in 2019.

More than one in four drivers in Alabama in 2007 lacked insurance, but tougher state regulations brought that down to 18.4% in 2015. State regulators earlier this year said they expected that had dropped still further, to 10% or less by 2019. But the IRC report pegs the number as actually having risen to 19.5% that year.

North Dakota also saw a big spike in uninsured motorists, from 6.8% in 2015 to 13% in 2019. Idaho last summer implemented increased efforts to crack down on uninsured drivers, which comprised about 8.2% of the state’s drivers in 2015, but jumped to 13.2% by 2019.

Arkansas also began cracking down on uninsured drivers last year. A new law that went into effect in January 2020 requires a state agency to notify residents whose registered vehicles appear to lack insurance that they have been fined $100 for the lapse. If they don’t provide proof of insurance within 30 days, their vehicle registration can be suspended. By the end of last August, the state had mailed 179,126 such letters to Arkansas drivers. The state hopes to reduce its rate of uninsured drivers, which stood at 19.3% in 2019, according to the IRC.

Two large states did see significant declines from 2015 to 2019 in uninsured driving. Florida fell from having 26.7% of drivers uninsured in 2015---the highest in the nation---to 20.4% in 2019, and Texas cut its rate nearly in half, from 14.1% in 2015 to just 8.3% in 2019.

John Yoswick

John Yoswick is a freelance writer and Autobody News columnist who has been covering the collision industry since 1988, and the editor of the CRASH Network... Read More

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