How to Address the Issue of Uninsured Motorists

Uninsured Mototrist

As America prepares for one of the largest travel days of the year – the Wednesday before Thanksgiving – lawful drivers must beware of the uninsured driver. Although Ohio does not have one of the highest number of uninsured driver rates, the financial impact these illegal drivers present to insured drivers and Ohio residents in general is cause for action.

Uninsured Driver Statistics

The problem of the uninsured motorist is a runaway train that is NOT fair to all law-abiding citizens. Ohio has the 17th highest uninsured driver rate in the United States, equating to 13.5% of all Ohio motorists. The number of uninsured drivers is based upon insurance claims by insured drivers injured by uninsured drivers against claims where both parties were properly insured. However, those are only the uninsured drivers we know about. The number of uninsured motorists in Ohio is estimated to be much higher, as much as an estimated 16%.

Why do these statistics matter to you, the lawfully insured motorist? It matters because you ultimately end up paying for these illegal drivers through high insurance rates, out-of-pocket medical costs and loss of property. What can be done? The answer is to identify uninsured drivers before they are involved in a traffic-related incident and hold them accountable with stricter repercussions.

Ohio Auto Insurance Requirements

The state of Ohio requires all motorists to carry auto insurance. According to the Ohio Department of Insurance, drivers in Ohio are required to purchase automobile insurance with:

  • Bodily injury liability coverage of $25,000 per person and $50,000 for all persons in any one accident
  • Property damage liability coverage of $25,000 for injury or the destruction of property of others in any one accident

However, current Ohio law does not require insurance companies to automatically include uninsured (UM) and/or underinsured (UIM) motorist coverage. To be covered for these types of incidents, you must ask for it and pay extra for coverage.

Therefore, prevention is key. Currently the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles randomly selects approximately 5 percent of registered vehicle owners to submit proof of insurance to the BMV. Although it does help to catch some uninsured motorists, not enough are caught to make a real difference to the average law-abiding citizen.

Identify and Hold Accountable

Uninsured drivers cause lawful drivers to have an increased insurance rate; that’s a fact. However, Ohio citizens and residents also pay for losses hidden in areas like:

  • Lawsuits
  • Personal losses
  • Costs of ERs and/or trauma centers
  • Medicare costs

These hidden costs are ultimately absorbed by the entire Ohio community, not just the insured driver involved. What can be done to protect law abiding drivers and the community as a whole? Identify uninsured drivers on a regular basis and establish additional penalties for uninsured drivers.

License Plate Readers

This type of technology has been implemented on America’s highways for decades. Ever driven through a toll with E-ZPass? If you have, the same type of electronic reader has been used to identify and then bill tolls for a personal vehicle. There are additional benefits too.

Not only can license plate readers (LPRs) catch uninsured drivers, they can be used to solve crimes, providing timely information to law enforcement officers to help with Amber Alerts, kidnapping, warrants, stolen vehicles or other criminal activity. However, there are some privacy concerns when it comes to using LPRs, namely the fear that “big brother” is watching you.

The key is to protect our citizens’ privacy while catching citizens who are breaking the law. For towns like Avoyelles, LA who are using this type of technology, citations are first mailed to the offender, allowing the citizen time to provide proof of insurance. If the vehicle is known to be uninsured, a ticket is immediately mailed to the owner for $500 plus court costs. This practice is much less invasive than pulling over a suspect to ask for insurance documentation.

Not all uninsured motorists will be identified with this type of technology. So, additional steps should be taken to protect/reward insured drivers when incidents between insured/uninsured occur.

No Pay, No Play

One way is with “No Pay, No Play” laws. Two of Ohio’s border states, Indiana and Michigan, have this type of statute in place. The intent is to help enforce mandatory insurance laws by prohibiting uninsured drivers from collecting certain types of damages from negligent insured drivers. Essentially, this prevents those who do not buy insurance from receiving benefits from those who do purchase it. This is a little harsher practice, but it has proven to be an effective method and has motivated citizens to comply with the law.

Whatever is decided, the issue of the uninsured motorist should not be ignored any longer. Steps need to be taken to protect Ohio’s law-abiding citizens and hold uninsured drivers accountable for breaking the law.

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