Dallas County once again holds the top spot for the most uninsured drivers on average in the state of Texas at 16.13%, meaning that about 1 in 6 drivers cruising around the county do not have motor vehicle insurance. El Paso (15.24%) and Harris (15.08%) counties ranked second and third, respectively, in the category. In Bexar County, where our main office is located, 13.65% of motorists are uninsured, which is lower than other major urban centers but still almost double the lowest percentages in the state: Collin (8.66%) and Rockwall (9.30%) counties have the lowest number of uninsured drivers on the road. The state average is right around 14%.
The overall numbers looked promising for several years, in large part due to the TexasSure program. Established in 2009, this plan calls for all Texans to contribute $1 when renewing their motor vehicle registration in order to create a massive database of insured drivers along with their carriers, plate numbers, and vehicle identification numbers. This database is then referenced by police officers during traffic stops and at accident sites. Additionally, uninsured Texans with registered vehicles are sent weekly notices to confirm coverage and are informed of potential fines and other punishments if they remain uninsured.
While the TexasSure program initially wielded encouraging results, many drivers quickly discovered a loophole allowing them to circumvent the system. These motorists purchase a temporary 30-day insurance policy to present during registration renewal and then fail to continue coverage, or they simply cancel their standard 6-month policy immediately after registration.
There have been a few attempts by Texas legislators to address the issue, but so far, nothing seems to have developed from their efforts. Last year, Democratic Nominee for Governor and current Senator Wendy Davis attempted to pass legislation that would have effectively eliminated 30-day policies altogether, requiring drivers to buy a 6-month policy in order to register their vehicle, receive an inspection, or get their driver’s license. The bill never even made it to the floor. Additionally, the Professional Insurance Agents of Texas heavily backed a recent bill to suspend annual vehicle registrations for drivers found to be without insurance coverage, but again, the legislation didn’t gain much momentum.
To the city of Dallas’ credit, there does exist a municipal ordinance to tow any vehicle stopped for a traffic violation or involved in an accident that is not properly insured. Still, the figures suggest that this measure, while helpful, isn’t doing enough to curtail uninsured driving.
This issue is further complicated when viewing it from a socio-economic perspective. For many families, it may be an issue of financial priorities. Recent reports indicate that insurance premiums have increased by double digits in the last year alone. That may seem insignificant, but to those living below the poverty line or on a fixed income, every dollar counts. Additionally, many carriers factor in credit scores when assessing coverage rates, a practice that works against drivers reporting low incomes by forcing them to pay more than the average motorist.
Several high-profile individuals have weighed in on the topic, and the debate generally centers around finances and civic responsibility. Robert Hunter, former Texas Insurance Commissioner, believes that these factors are not necessarily mutually exclusive but that in this instance, the former seems to be trumping the latter. Said Hunter, “Legislators and insurance regulators need to recognize that the uninsured motorist problem is much more about affordability than about irresponsibility.”
Others insist that minimum coverage is easily affordable and doesn’t threaten anyone’s financial security. Minimum liability coverage in Texas works out to roughly $60 per month in a best-case scenario, which might not seem like much in the present but adds up to over $700 annually – a large chunk of income for a family living in poverty. Don Miller, President of Texian Insurance, claims that this amount shouldn’t be enough to deter drivers from purchasing coverage: “The cost is not prohibitive,” he claims. Adding that, “It’s not like we’re asking them to not feed their children.” It’s probably safe to assume that Mr. Miller’s income exceeds the poverty line.
At any rate, the fact remains that too many drivers in Dallas County, and across the state of Texas, are operating without motor vehicle insurance. When an insured driver without uninsured-motorist protection is hit by an uninsured driver, they are often unable to recoup compensation for damages caused. Therefore, for those drivers who can afford it, it’s wise to carry uninsured-motorist protection, especially in a major metropolitan region such as Dallas County whose roadways can be particularly dangerous. Again, based on the data, basically one out of every six cars on the road is uninsured; next time you’re stuck in traffic, just look around – it’s an easy number to crunch.
Being involved in a motor vehicle accident with an uninsured driver can not only affect an individual’s physical health, but can also drastically compromise their financial stability. Potential solutions to this problem have not been forthcoming, and the number of uninsured drivers continues to increase.
At Crosley Law Firm, we encourage everyone to properly insure their vehicles, and we invite anyone involved in a personal injury resulting from an auto accident to contact us at (877) 535-4529 or visit us at our website. We offer free consultations and a no-fee policy, and we utilize the latest in courtroom technology and accident reconstruction to provide our clients with expert legal representation.
Stutz, T. (August, 2014). Dallas County’s uninsured driver rate speeds up. Dallas News.Retrieved from: http://www.dallasnews.com/news/transportation/20140816-dallas-countys-uninsured-driver-rate-speeds-up.ece