Auto accidents account for more than 30,000 fatalities per year and are the leading cause of death for U.S. citizens between the ages of 5 and 34 years of age. The financial cost of property damage and medical bills related to auto accidents is billions of dollars annually. This is why every state has passed financial responsibility laws (mandatory insurance) for drivers. DUI is the only traffic offense with higher penalties than driving without insurance in many jurisdictions.
Car Insurance Is Too Expensive
Those who believe insurance is expensive are unaware of the cost of driving uninsured. In many states, the driver’s license is suspended for up to six months, the driver is fined up to $1000 for a first offense, and at least one state requires that the driver serve time in jail. While DUI offenders may be able to obtain a hardship license to drive back and forth to work, uninsured drivers are not likely to receive consideration for a hardship license.
Uninsured Doesn’t Mean Not Responsible
Uninsured drivers who are at fault for an accident are still financially responsible for any damages or injuries they cause. Civil courts can render judgments against uninsured drivers which the drivers will have to pay, even if it takes a lifetime. While criminal courts provide an attorney to defend an accused free of charge, civil courts are not required to provide attorneys and the legal costs of defending a law suit are extremely high.
Not only can drivers face stiff fines, jail time and financial responsibility for damages, some states seize uninsured vehicles. Depending on the law in a particular state, the state may not return the car. If the driver owes a loan on the car, he or she is still responsible for payment of the loan. Paying off a car that has been impounded by the state is just another expense that may be faced by uninsured drivers, not to mention the impound and storage fees charged by the state.
How States Catch Uninsured Drivers
This is the information age and law enforcement is taking advantage of the speed and accuracy of computers in tracing uninsured drivers. In some states, insurance companies must report to the state division of motor vehicles when an auto insurance policy lapses. The car registration is automatically suspended and police officers calling in a tag number are advised of the suspended registration and lack of insurance.
In the past, some courts did not consider driving without insurance to be a serious offense. For this reason, the legislatures of states where uninsured motorists are a problem have passed laws that remove the court’s discretion from penalties. The penalties are mandated by law and judges and lawyers cannot reduce them. There are very few defenses to driving without insurance, especially if the driver owns the uninsured vehicle.
The government is no longer willing to shoulder the burden of paying for damages caused by uninsured drivers. Many states have increased the penalties for driving without insurance in recent years. Compared to costs of fines, damages, legal fees, impound fees and losing a drivers license for up to six months, car insurance is an absolute bargain.