Uninsured drivers cost Oklahoma $8.8 million a year in tax premiums, according to a new study by the Oklahoma Insurance Department.
The agency estimates Oklahoma has 563,692 uninsured drivers. Based on an average annual cost of liability insurance for those drivers of $700 and a premium tax rate of 2.25 percent, the state loses more than $8.8 million annually.
Several estimates place the state with a high number of uninsured drivers.
Insurance Commissioner John Doak said he believes the problem is partly a result of lax enforcement of state law in the past.
Since 2010, law enforcement officers in the state have had the ability to impound the vehicles of uninsured drivers.
Looking for answers
Doak said his office is working with other state officials to come up with ideas on how to further crack down on uninsured drivers, including seizing an offending driver's car tags until the vehicle is insured.
Doak said he also supports increased fines for failure to carry liability insurance.
“A low fine may be less expensive than paying for the insurance — and some people are taking that gamble,” Doak said.
The Insurance Department bases its estimate of the number of uninsured drivers in the state on data from the Insurance Research Council, the U.S. Transportation Department and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
But nobody knows precisely how many uninsured drivers there are. AAA Oklahoma spokesman Chuck Mai said some have estimated as many as 25 to 30 percent of drivers in the state are uninsured.
“There's really no way to calculate that number for certain unless you set up road blocks and check cars to see if everyone has insurance,” Mai said.
Effect on premiums
AAA is part of an Insurance Department task force with other industry representatives to examine the problem of uninsured drivers in the state.
Uninsured drivers also boost the cost for insurance premiums for other drivers, Mai said.
Rates can be affected depending on the number of accidents involving uninsured drivers in a certain geographic area, he said.
“Our rates are certainly higher than if everyone had insurance,” Mai said. “If you are struck by an uninsured driver, it is difficult to collect on any damages to your vehicle. Consequently, your insurance rates will typically rise, and those of the entire pool can rise as well.”