A study issued by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) indicates that the national rate of uninsured motorists will jump to 16.1 percent, or one in six drivers, by 2010 as a result of the recent economic downturn. In 2007, 13.8 percent of motorists were uninsured.
The report cites a correlation between the unemployment rate and the percentage of uninsured motorists and notes that uninsured rates vary from state to state, with states in the South carrying the most uninsured drivers. In 2007, the five states with the highest uninsured driver estimates were New Mexico (29 percent), Mississippi (28 percent), Alabama (26 percent), Oklahoma (24 percent) and Florida (23 percent). The five states with the lowest uninsured driver estimates were Massachusetts (1 percent), Maine (4 percent), North Dakota (5 percent), New York (5 percent) and Vermont (6 percent).
“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. “Responsible drivers who purchase insurance end up paying for injuries caused by uninsured drivers.”
In response to the news, insurers are encouraging drivers to increase their uninsured motorist coverage.
"I’m recommending to our customers that they raise their uninsured motorist up equal to their liability limits,” Georgia-based Allstate agent Lonnie Mathis told WALB-TV Channel 10. “If they’re carrying $100,000 or $300,000 liability, they ought to bring their uninsured motorist up equal to that."
Mathis estimated the additional coverage could cost from $50 to $125 a year. With no improvement in sight for the economy, it’s questionable whether many motorists will follow that advice.
A decrease in new car sales and an aging auto population could also have an adverse effect on the number of repairs available to shops: new-vehicle sales in the United States fell 37 percent in January, according to the New York Times.