More uninsured motorists expected in tough economy

By Jon Kalahar - bio | email

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - In tough economic times, Mississippians are looking to cut back in every area they can to keep their heads above water. But some cutbacks are illegal and might affect those around you.

The latest numbers from 2006 show 28 percent of Mississippi drivers don't have car insurance.

"We think the date is closer to 30 or 31 percent now in 2009," said Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney. The people who are actually paying are the people who still have insurance."

With the poor economy and rising unemployment, Chaney worries the number of uninsured drivers could be growing.

Almost half, 45 percent, of all fatal accidents involve an uninsured motorist. Officer Johnny Poulos said high risk drivers are still on the roads, despite a state law requiring at least general liability insurance.

"A lot of times we deal with drivers who cannot get insurance on their vehicles due to the fact of a suspended driver's license, DUI," Poulos said.

Even with officers working to enforce the state's insurance law, some uninsured drivers will slip through the cracks.

"When we receive proof of insurance from a driver on a traffic stop, we're looking at a piece of paper that says that vehicle is insured. But we have no physical proof of being able to check electronically," said Poulos.

To solve that problem, Mississippi has a pilot program is in the works that will link law enforcement to insurance companies' databases via the web.

More than 29,000 tickets were written for uninsured motorists last year.

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