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States consider alternative measures to stop rise in uninsured drivers

Many states, such as Connecticut, force drivers to carry minimum auto insurance policy limits in the event of an auto accident. Depending on the circumstances, drivers pulled over and found driving without insurance on their vehicles are typically issued citations.

However, according to the Insurance Research Council, a nonprofit organization that examines data relating to the auto insurance industry, too many drivers simply don't purchase auto insurance at all, despite the risk of getting hit with a hefty fine.

The Council estimates that approximately 14 percent of drivers nationwide are driving without auto insurance today. Washington, Michigan and Florida are the top states determined to have the most uninsured drivers.

This is a problem because many states, including Connecticut, follow a fault-based system when it comes to auto accidents.

At-fault drivers responsible for losses

In a fault-based system, if a driver causes an accident, that driver is responsible for compensating the losses from the incident. A problem, however, arises when the at-fault driver doesn't carry auto insurance.

A case in point was recently highlighted among various media outlets. A young couple sustained severe injuries after being hit by an at-fault driver in the state of Oklahoma. The couple discovered that the at-fault driver did not have auto insurance and, as a result, were responsible for $550,000 in medical bills.

Uninsured / underinsured motorist coverage

Fortunately, the State of Connecticut has prepared for this possibility. Along with the requisite minimum bodily injury liability auto policy coverage of $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident, drivers in Connecticut must also purchase uninsured / underinsured motorist coverage in the event they find themselves in similar circumstances as the Oklahoma couple. (An individual's uninsured / underinsured motorist coverage essentially pays for losses where an at-fault driver is found without insurance.)

However, these mandatory uninsured / underinsured limits are simply too low.

Healthcare costs today are astonishingly high. A recent report from the New York Times indicates that just one overnight hospital stay could cost up to $12,000-and possibly more for individuals receiving care in intensive care units. The Times highlighted an instance where it cost one patient $2200 for just three stitches.

Tackling the problem

Fortunately, some states have taken alternative measures to tackle these problems than issuing citations.

Some state lawmakers have instituted "no pay, no play" laws that prohibit drivers found without proper auto insurance from seeking compensation for injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident.

Other states have implemented programs that confiscate license plates from vehicles found uninsured and force drivers who wish to get their plates back to pay steep fines and show proof of insurance.

All of these initiatives may prove useful in tackling drivers who violate the law and refuse to carry the mandatory minimum policies. It remains to be seen, however, what further initiatives will be put forth given that the rate of uninsured motorists continues to rise.