The worsening economy drives motorists to do the unthinkable—ride uninsured and risk losing license privileges or going to jail.
According to the 2007-2008 Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Report, approximately 2.4 million licenses have been revoked in Florida.
This average is 30 percent higher than rates between 2006 and 2007.
“Violators stopped without insurance or a suspended license will go to jail,” said Sherry Thompson, an officer for the Tallahassee Police Department.
There has been a correlation between the percentage of drivers who choose to abstain from car insurance and each state’s unemployment rate, according to a report by the Insurance Research Council.
The percentage of uninsured motorists in the United States is expected to rise from 13.8 percent in 2007 to 16.1 in 2010, according to the report.
“An increase in the number of uninsured motorists is an unfortunate consequence of the economic downturn and illustrates how virtually everyone is affected by recent economic developments,” said Elizabeth A. Sprinkel, senior vice president of the IRC.
According to M.P. McQueen, writer of The Wall Street Journal article, “Road Risks Rise as More Drivers Drop Insurance: Higher Premiums, Joblessness Contribute to Alarming Trend; What to Do When You’re Hit,” driving without insurance is illegal in 48 states including the District of Columbia.
New Hampshire and Wisconsin are the only states that do not require insurance.
However, the states require drivers to show proof that they can pay damages.
Motorist who allow their policies to drop for any reason are charged 25 to 50 percent more for a new policy, according to the article.
McQueen said this is a punishment insurance companies give to drivers who are consistently involved in accidents.
From insurance companies to the law, Thompson said those who drive “illegally” would have to suffer consequences from each entity.
“Failure to pay or answer to a traffic citation will result in the suspension of his or her driver’s license,” Thompson said. “Students are held at the same level as adults.”
Thompson also said motorist who acquire up to three suspended licenses within a three-year period are eligible to have their license suspended for three years.
“[Someone] could be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony,” Thompson said.
“Motorists driving without insurance could lose whatever assets they own in a court judgment,” said McQueen.
McQueen said this is a punishment insurance companies give to irresponsible drivers. Unlicensed and uninsured drivers are excessively involved in fatal accidents.
According to the IRC report, Florida is in the top five states with uninsured motorists at an estimated 23 percent.
The Research Council estimates that the economic crisis will continue to affect the number of dropped insurance policies.