Driving without insurance: Don’t do it

Quick Notes:

  • In some states (like Florida), up to 26% of drivers don’t have insurance.

  • Driving without insurance can cause more than just a hefty fine, especially if you get into a wreck.

  • You can be fined even if you aren’t physically driving the car.

You’re not legally permitted to drive a motor vehicle without an active insurance policy, with the exception of a couple of states. Nevertheless, countless drivers drive uninsured every day. The potential consequences of driving without insurance include hefty fines and license suspension, but the consequences could be greater if you are involved in an accident while driving uninsured.

These penalties vary by state, so it’s important to know what you or someone you know may be facing if you choose to hop in the car and drive without valid insurance in tow.

Driving without insurance: Many do it

Driving without insurance is a risky, short-sighted decision that will eventually bite you in the rear given enough time. The collective response of more than a quarter of motorists in Florida: YOLO!

Even more concerning than the fact that Floridians are still throwing around ‘YOLO!’ like it’s hot is the fact that — and I’m being serious here — an estimated 26.7% of drivers in Florida were uninsured in 2015. In other words, at least one in every four cars you see next to you on Florida roads is statistically likely to be without insurance. That’s truly terrifying, and it’s a significant reason why insurance rates in Florida are in the top-three nationally

Florida isn’t the only state where drivers operate like the roads are akin to the Wild West. A shade under 24% of drivers in Mississippi were thought to be uninsured in 2015, as were more than 1 out of 5 drivers in Tennessee, New Mexico, and Michigan. But don’t get it twisted: driving without insurance isn’t a risk-free proposition — not by a long shot.

Even more concerning than the fact that Floridians are still throwing around ‘YOLO!’ like it’s hot is the fact that — and I’m being serious here — an estimated 26.7% of drivers in Florida were uninsured in 2015.

Don’t expect leniency if you’re driving without insurance

If you’re under the impression that driving without insurance falls alongside the likes of jaywalking or littering on the crime-seriousness spectrum, think again. Sure, there’s always the rare example of the uncharacteristically sympathetic patrolman who may allow you to drive the few blocks to your house to avoid a hefty bill from the tow company.

But like I said, this hypothetical cop will be the very rare exception. Don’t bank on using your car after being caught driving without insurance, at least in the immediate future — it will likely remain in the tow yard until you get your insurance in order.

Driving without insurance puts yourself and other motorists at risk of massive financial damages that could result from property damage, medical bills, lingering injuries and the other costs of serious collisions. It’s no wonder why law enforcement officials treat driving without insurance as a serious matter.

You don’t need to drive the car to be fined for lack of insurance

Believe it or not, you can be fined for not having insurance for your vehicle even if you’re not driving it. That’s right, states that employ an ‘active monitoring’ approach are constantly scanning for registered vehicles that are uninsured via electronic means. They maintain databases of uninsured drivers that police may access, and police-issued cameras are increasingly able to scan license plates to detect whether the vehicle is insured or not.

They see you when you’re sleeping, they know when you’re awake…and uninsured. And they won’t hesitate to levy a fine against you for not keeping your vehicle insurance up to date.

Pixabay

So you’ve been pulled over without insurance. What now?

If you’ve chosen to join the alarmingly abundant ranks of uninsured drivers, you should know what to expect if and when you are caught. Like any crime, the punishment will depend in part on whether it’s your first, second, third, or thirty-seventh offense. You can view a comprehensive rundown of state-by-state penalties here.

Fines:

If you’re caught driving without insurance in any state where doing so is illegal, you can bet your bottom dollar that you’ll be handing over some money to your local authorities. Some states are fairly merciful on first-time offenders — the penalty in Arkansas may be as little as $50, for example. 

But other states aren’t so nice to uninsured motorists caught in the act. In Delaware, the minimum fine imposed for driving without insurance is $1,500. Second-time offenders in Massachusetts could be fined as much as $5,000 for rolling around in an uninsured whip. 

Suspended license:

At least 44 states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, New York, Texas and Virginia have the option of suspending a motorist’s license if they are caught driving without insurance.

In Delaware, the minimum fine imposed for driving without insurance is $1,500.

Towing/Impound fees:

It’s typically up to the officer on site whether an uninsured vehicle will be towed. Faced with a vehicle lacking insurance, many see it as a no-option situation and call the tow truck. As anybody who’s had their vehicle towed knows, this can ultimately result in hundreds — or easily thousands — of dollars billed by towing companies and impound lots, who could make a killing off of your poor decision. 

Jail time:

It’s unlikely that you’ll see the inside of a jail cell based on a single infraction of driving without insurance. But if you cause an accident, especially one where serious injury occurs, then you could face greater penalties as the result of being uninsured. And, if it’s your second, third, or fourth offense, at some point a judge is likely to see you as incorrigible and levy a sentence that includes some form of detainment.

Litigation:

If you’re at fault for an accident while driving without insurance, you should prepare to be sued out the wazoo. After all, the choice to drive uninsured is the choice to roll around with virtually limitless personal liability in the case that you cause property damage and/or injury to someone else. Don’t count on the injured party’s personal injury attorneys taking mercy on you, either.

In an accident where you’re not at fault, many states preclude you from receiving any sort of damages or compensation. So, best-case scenario, you’re paying for your own vehicle damage and any medical bills or loss of wages from a car accident. In the worst case, you’re paying those expenses for somebody else.

 

A deeper dive — Related reading from the 101: 

-5 effective ways to curb lazy behaviors I Living 101

Laziness takes many forms, and they can all be kicked to the curb with the right tools…

Five things that customs won’t let you bring back to the U.S. I Living 101

Speaking of things that could get you into serious trouble…