How Many Uninsured Motorists Are There? Which States Have the Most?

Last Updated on February 8, 2022

Driving without insurance is surprisingly common in the United States. Nationwide, approximately 1 in 8 drivers do not carry insurance.

Nearly all states require drivers to carry car insurance. However, approximately 28 million Americans do not carry car insurance. In some of the worst offending states, over 25% of drivers do not carry car insurance.

How many uninsured motorists are there in the United States? Which states have the best and worst rates for driving without insurance? Keep reading to discover everything you need to know about the number of uninsured motorists in the United States.

1 in 8 Motorists Do Not Carry Car Insurance

According to a 2021 study by the Insurance Research Council, approximately 12.6% of motorists in the United States are uninsured.

Although that number may seem high, it has fallen in recent years. The IRC estimates that approximately 16.0% of motorists were uninsured in 1993, for example, while roughly 13.1% of motorists were uninsured in 2017, the year with the most recent high.

The IRC’s study also found that the rates of uninsured drivers varied across the country. New Jersey had the lowest rate of uninsured drivers, for example, with only 3.1% of drivers not carrying insurance, while Mississippi had the highest percentage, with 29.4% of drivers in Mississippi not carrying insurance.

Uninsured Motorists Drive Up Costs for Everyone

Uninsured motorists raise insurance premiums for everyone. Here’s how IRC vice president David Corum explains the phenomenon in the latest report:

“Uninsured drivers increase the cost of insurance for those who comply with their state’s insurance requirements and that’s not fair. Keeping auto insurance affordable is more difficult when a significant number of drivers refuse to carry their fair share of the costs.”

When a driver does not carry insurance, it pushes those costs onto other drivers and their own insurance companies. If an uninsured motorist collides with you, for example, then you may still have $50,000 of medical bills and $20,000 of vehicle repair costs. Normally, the other driver’s insurance would cover these costs because the other driver was liable (at fault). If the other driver was uninsured, however, then your own insurer covers the costs (or you pay out of pocket).

According to the IRC, the average cost of uninsured motorist insurance is around $78 per insured vehicle, and insurers pay more than $13 billion in uninsured motorist claims nationwide per year.

How the IRC Measures Rates of Uninsured Motorists

How can you measure the number of uninsured drivers if uninsured drivers do not carry car insurance? The IRC analyzes claims data.

To measure the number of uninsured motorists on the road, the IRC checks the number of insurance claims, using a ratio of insurance claims made by people who were injured by uninsured drivers relative to the number of claims made by people who were injured by insured drivers.

It’s not a perfect system, but it provides a good estimation of which states have higher and lower rates of uninsured drivers.

Top 10 Best States for Uninsured Drivers

Nationwide, roughly 12.6% of motorists do not carry car insurance. However, some states have significantly lower levels of uninsured drivers.

The top 10 best states (states with low rates of uninsured drivers), according to the IRC, include:

  1. New Jersey: 3.1%
  2. Massachusetts: 3.5%
  3. New York: 4.1%
  4. Maine: 4.9%
  5. Wyoming: 5.8%
  6. Pennsylvania: 6.0%
  7. New Hampshire: 6.1%
  8. Connecticut: 6.3%
  9. Utah: 6.5%
  10. North Carolina: 7.4%

Top 10 Worst States for Uninsured Drivers

Some states have relatively high rates of uninsured drivers. In the worst states, over 25% of drivers (or more than 1 out of every 4 drivers) do not carry car insurance.

The 10 worst states for high rates of uninsured drivers include:

  1. Mississippi: 29.4%
  2. Michigan: 25.5%
  3. Tennessee: 23.7%
  4. New Mexico: 21.8%
  5. Washington: 21.7%
  6. Florida: 20.4%
  7. Alabama: 19.5%
  8. Arkansas: 19.3%
  9. Washington, D.C.: 19.1%
  10. California: 16.6%

All other states fall between 7.4% and 16.5%, making them roughly average compared to the rest of the country.

Should You Carry Uninsured Motorist Coverage?

Some drivers buy uninsured motorist coverage for added protection against uninsured motorists. In fact, some states require you to carry uninsured motorist coverage.

20 states and Washington, D.C. require drivers to carry uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. These coverages cover the risk of uninsured drivers on the road. Drivers with insurance pay higher rates to compensate for uninsured drivers.

If you collide with another vehicle in the United States, there’s a 12.6% chance the other driver does not carry car insurance. Depending on your state, that number could be as high as 30%. No matter where you live, you have a decent chance of colliding with an uninsured motorist every time you drive.

Some of the reasons to buy uninsured motorist coverage include:

Peace of Mind: There’s a good chance your next collision will be with an uninsured driver. Uninsured motorist coverage gives you peace of mind that your car insurance will be there when you need it most.

Coverage for Underinsured Drivers: Uninsured motorist coverage typically comes with underinsured motorist coverage. Underinsured motorists may carry the minimum legal amount of car insurance, but this amount is not enough to cover most accidents. In this situation, you can sue the other driver for damages. However, drivers who carry zero car insurance or too little insurance typically have few assets to seize, making a lawsuit fruitless. Underinsured motorist coverage can give you extra coverage after an accident when needed most.

Protection Against Hit and Run Accidents: In a hit and run accident, you don’t know the other driver. Insurers may treat this like a collision with an uninsured motorist. In fact, many hit and runs are caused by uninsured motorists. Drivers flee the scene because they know they cannot provide insurance and could face severe consequences. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, then you have extra protection against hit and run accidents.

Contact your insurance company to add uninsured motorist coverage to your policy. It may cost a few extra dollars per month. Or, you may already have it because it could be required in your state.

Why Do People Drive Without Insurance?

Uninsured driving is a complicated problem. People drive without insurance for multiple reasons.

According to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, 82% of uninsured drivers drive without insurance because:

  • It’s too expensive
  • They drive a vehicle that is inoperable or unused

Some uninsured motorists have poor driving records, for example, which make it prohibitively expensive to drive car insurance. Studies also show that economically-depressed areas tend to have higher rates of uninsured drivers than wealthier areas.

How No Pay, No Play Laws Punish Uninsured Drivers

To fight high levels of uninsured drivers, some states have passed no pay, no play laws.

Under this system, drivers without insurance receive no compensation after an accident – even if they were not at fault.

Some states have also implemented random driver checks and insurance verification checkpoints to fight high rates of uninsured drivers.

Some States Do Not Require Insurance

Driving without insurance doesn’t necessarily mean driving illegally. Some states technically allow drivers to drive without insurance.

New Hampshire, for example, allows drivers to legally drive without insurance. Drivers are still liable for any damages they cause while driving, which is why most drivers still carry insurance. However, you can legally drive without insurance in New Hampshire.

Virginia, similarly, allows drivers to pay an uninsured motorist fee to avoid carrying car insurance. You pay a fee of around $500 per year, for example, and can legally drive without insurance in Virginia. You are still liable for any damages you cause while driving, but you can legally drive without valid car insurance.

In other states, you can deposit a surety bond as proof of financial responsibility. California, for example, allows drivers to deposit money as a bond. In the event of an accident, this bond could cover certain damages. As long as you have a surety bond and have registered that bond with the DMV, you can technically drive without insurance.

Even in states with unique insurance laws, however, most drivers carry insurance for protection and peace of mind. Although New Hampshire and Virginia technically do not require car insurance, neither state ranks near the top of the uninsured motorist list. In fact, New Hampshire has one of the highest rates of insured motorists in the county, with 6.1% of New Hampshire drivers carrying car insurance.

Final Word on Uninsured Drivers in America

There are millions of uninsured motorists across the United States. Nationwide, approximately 1in 8 drivers is uninsured. Millions more are underinsured.

In New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York, Maine, and Wyoming, the rate of uninsured drivers is relatively low – under 6%. In Mississippi, Michigan, Tennessee, New Mexico, and Washington, however, there are much higher rates of uninsured drivers, with over 20% of drivers not carrying insurance.

If you are concerned about high rates of uninsured motorists in your area, then consider adding uninsured motorist coverage to your policy.

James Shaffer
James Shaffer James Shaffer is a writer for InsurancePanda.com and a well-seasoned auto insurance industry veteran. He has a deep knowledge of insurance rules and regulations and is passionate about helping drivers save money on auto insurance. He is responsible for researching and writing about anything auto insurance-related. He holds a bachelor's degree from Bentley University and his work has been quoted by NBC News, CNN, and The Washington Post.
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