15 Facts About Uninsured Motorists in the U.S. (2021 Study)

Our report on uninsured motorist facts determined that the 10 worst states for uninsured drivers have 20% not covered by car insurance. On the other hand, the 10 best states were found to only have 5.5% of their motorists uninsured. Motorists caught driving without car insurance face steep fines. First-time offenders will be required to pay between $500 and $5,000 depending on the state laws where their vehicle is registered.

Chris Tepedino is a feature writer that has written extensively about car insurance for numerous websites. He has a college degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and has experience reporting, researching investigative pieces, and crafting detailed, data-driven features. His works have been featured on CB Blog Nation, Flow Words, Healing Law, WIBW Kansas, and Cinncinati.com. H...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP®

UPDATED: Jul 2, 2021

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Here's What You Need to Know

  • In the past 28 years, the percentage of uninsured drivers has decreased 3%
  • The worst 10 states for uninsured motorists see higher than average traffic deaths
  • The income difference between the five best states and the five worst is $19,400
  • New Hampshire is the only state you can drive without auto insurance

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It’s a topic that causes heated arguments in cities all across America: Should car insurance be mandatory and what can we do about all the uninsured motorists on the road?

In this article, which covers 15 uninsured motorist facts, we go deep into the damage that uninsured motorists cost and why they may not have insurance, to begin with.

We are also going to cover the percentage of uninsured drivers by state, the truth about uninsured motorist coverage, if you need uninsured motorist coverage if you already have collision and comprehensive, and attempt to answer the question, “Why are there so many uninsured drivers?”

One of the big issues you’ll see is money and whether you can afford to pay for car insurance or not.

Fortunately, there are numerous ways to lower auto insurance rates, one of which is comparing quotes from the best car insurance companies.

Let’s get started.

Table of Contents

15 Shocking Facts About Uninsured Motorists in America

With these 15 facts, you’ll see all sides of the uninsured motorist issue in the United States:

  • The total dollar amount lost in car accidents every year
  • The states with the most and least uninsured motorists
  • How the percentage of uninsured motorists relates to personal income

Scroll down for your 15 alarming uninsured motorist facts.

#1 – Car accident losses exceed $150 billion every year in the United States

Whether they are fender-benders, side-swipe collisions, or head-on crashes, car accident losses cost more than $150 billion. After an accident, car insurance policyholders experience a difficult claims process, possible out-of-pocket repairs, and a spike in rates.

#2 – 13% of all drivers in the United States are uninsured

This statistic has been consistent for a number of years, even as the states with the most or least uninsured motorists change. Uninsured motorists play the odds. If they get into a wreck, there are harsh punishments, both financial and personal. All it takes is one pullover from a cop to reveal they are driving without insurance.

#3 – Mississippi is the worst state for uninsured motorists

Mississippi ranks worst out of all 50 states with 29% of drivers being uninsured. It is also one of the most dangerous states to drive in with 22 traffic deaths per 100,000 residents each year. Why does Mississippi have such a high number of uninsured motorists?

One reason might be the car insurance costs. Mississippi is near the worst in the country for premiums as a percentage of income.

The average person in Mississippi spends 3% of their income on car insurance, which is near 50% above the national average.

Mississippi does not have harsh deterrents for driving without insurance as well like other states. The penalty for driving without insurance in Mississippi is a flat $1,000 fine every time a driver is caught. There is no escalation of fines for repeat offenders. You can face possible license and registration suspension, however.

#4 – In the 10 worst states for uninsured motorists, 21% of drivers don’t have car insurance

Taken together, the 10 states with the highest percentages of uninsured drivers average 21%. This means that a little over one in five drivers in those states has no car insurance. The portion of motorists that are uninsured in the 10 worst states are:

  • Mississippi: 29%
  • Michigan: 26%
  • Tennessee: 24%
  • New Mexico: 22%
  • Washington: 22%
  • Florida: 20%
  • Alabama: 20%
  • Arkansas: 19%
  • California: 17%
  • Rhode Island: 17%

Five of those states are in the South.

#5 – The 10 worst states for uninsured motorists have more hit-and-run accidents

The 10 states with the most uninsured motorists average one hit-and-run crash per 100,000 licensed drivers. That’s 33% higher than the other 40 states.

Psychologically, this makes sense. If an uninsured motorist gets into an accident, they may not want to stick around for the punishments that come with it.

#6 – The 10 worst states for uninsured motorists have a higher premium to income ratio

Eight of the 10 states with the most uninsured motorists pay 2% or more of their income on car insurance premiums. Just two of the 10 states with the fewest uninsured motorists do the same.

#7 – The 10 worst states for uninsured motorists have more traffic deaths

The 10 states with the most uninsured motorists average two more traffic deaths per 100,000 residents than the other states. The 10 states include five states among the worst with traffic deaths per capita.

#8 – The average income is lower in the five worst states for uninsured motorists

The residents in the five worst states for uninsured motorists average $51,600 in personal income, which is $4,900 lower than the national average of $56,500. 

#9 – New Jersey is the best state for uninsured motorists

The Garden State, a perennial contender in the best drivers lists, comes in with the fewest uninsured motorists at 3.1%. This means if you get into an accident in New Jersey, you almost certainly won’t have to deal with an uninsured motorist situation.

The penalty for driving without insurance in New Jersey is steep — up to $5,000 in fines, two-year license suspension, jail time, and community service.

#10 – In the 10 best states for uninsured motorists, 94% of drivers have car insurance

That’s 15% lower than the 10 best states for uninsured motorists. The portion of motorists that are uninsured in the 10 best states are:

  • New Jersey: 3%
  • Massachusetts: 4%
  • New York: 4%
  • Maine: 5%
  • Wyoming: 6%
  • Pennsylvania: 6%
  • New Hampshire: 6%
  • Connecticut: 6%
  • Utah: 7%
  • South Dakota: 7%

Seven of those states are in the Northeast.

#11 – The average income is higher in the five best states for uninsured motorists

The average personal income in the five states with the fewest uninsured motorists is $71,000, which is $14,500 higher than the national average of $56,500. It is also $19,400 higher than the average for the five states with the most uninsured drivers.

#12 – Fines for driving without insurance range from $50-$5,000

And that is just for first-time offenders. The fine for driving without insurance depends a great deal on the state or city you’re driving in, as well as the circumstances in how the police or government found out.

If you’re driving without insurance and get into an accident, expect a heavier fine than if the police found out through a routine traffic stop.

#13 – Drivers can get their license suspended and vehicle impounded as penalties for driving without insurance

The penalties for driving without insurance have grown harsher throughout the years. License suspension is now common and more jurisdictions are starting to impound vehicles if a driver is caught driving without insurance.

#14 – A driver caught without insurance can be labeled “high-risk” and face jail time

Finally, an uninsured motorist who is caught may face jail time, court fees, lawyer fees, and be labeled a high-risk driver. The sum total of these penalties can run to thousands of dollars. Driving without insurance is a gamble, one that hurts tremendously if it fails.

#15 – New Hampshire is the only state that does not require drivers to have car insurance

Only New Hampshire, out of all states, does not require their residents to purchase auto insurance. However, drivers must be able to show that they have enough money saved up to cover the cost of an accident.

How to Protect Yourself from Uninsured Motorists

If you’re a driver that has insurance in a city full of motorists who don’t, you may be worried about getting into an accident with one of those motorists. So, how do you protect yourself through insurance from those situations?

There are two types of auto insurance coverages that can reimburse you when you are in an accident with an uninsured motorist: uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM) and collision coverage.

Let’s break them down. UM/UIM is what it states: It’s an auto insurance coverage designed specifically to reimburse you for repairs if you are in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist.

Within uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, there are two parts: uninsured bodily injury coverage and uninsured property damage coverage.

Uninsured bodily injury coverage comes into play if you’re injured in an accident involving an uninsured motorist. It helps pay for your medical bills. Uninsured property damage coverage helps reimburse you for repairs if your car was damaged in an accident with an uninsured motorist. Both are very important.

The “underinsured” motorist part of “uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage” is if the other driver has insurance but their coverage limits do not cover the full cost of the repairs needed.

So, if you were to get in an accident with an underinsured motorist and your repairs totaled $6,000, but the underinsured motorist’s coverage could only pay $5,000, your UM/UIM coverage would kick in with the additional $1,000.

The main downside to UM/UIM is that it can be harder to get those claims approved, especially if there is a lack of evidence that there was an actual car accident.

This is a serious issue in states where there are a high number of hit and run accidents. If you can’t find evidence from a camera or another source, your auto insurance companies might fight the claim.

Many drivers commit auto insurance fraud by damaging their own vehicle, then “blaming” it on an uninsured motorist. For that reason, auto insurance companies are a little more reticent to approve those claims.

You might ask, “Is uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage necessary?” That depends on your situation and whether you have collision coverage.

With collision coverage, it doesn’t matter if the other driver didn’t have insurance or was uninsured. Your auto insurance company would pay out the full cost for any repairs that are needed. Collision coverage is much broader and covers you when you are at fault in an accident or are in a single-car accident.

Those are the two — and only two — coverages that can help if you are in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist.

How to Save Money on Your Car Insurance

Now, for the other side. If you’re a car owner and need to drive (to work or another area) but can’t afford car insurance, you’re in a difficult situation. Fortunately, there are ways you can get a more affordable rate. These ways include:

  • Buying cheap minimum coverage
  • Searching for all the discounts for each company
  • Shopping around and comparing quotes
  • Raising your deductible to lower your rate
  • Buying usage-based insurance so you only pay when you drive
  • Using a telematics system to decrease rates

While you can’t negotiate with car insurance companies about rates, those are just some of the ways you can get a lower rate and make sure you drive insured and not wind up in jail.

A big question many people have is if you can drive an uninsured car on your insurance policy. The truth is, it depends on the circumstances and the specific language in your policy.

All States Ranked by Per Capita Uninsured Motorists

If you’ve gone through our 15 uninsured motorist facts and not seen your state mentioned, you might be anxious to find out where it stands. The table below shows all 50 states ranked by percentage of uninsured drivers. You can also see in the far right column the estimated number of uninsured drivers on the road in a particular state. First is worst here.

The Worst (and Best) States for Uninsured Motorists
RankStateLicensed DriversUninsured MotoristsPortion of Drivers Uninsured
4New Mexico2,153,929469,55721.8%
10Rhode Island7,261,2661,198,10916.5%
20North Dakota4,950,056643,50713.0%
27South Carolina1,430,818155,95910.9%
35West Virginia8,032,7927,390,1699.2%
40North Carolina3,877,9682,869,6967.4%
40South Dakota638,428472,4377.4%
44New Hampshire2,121,0991,293,8706.1%
48New York1,130,389463,4604.1%
50New Jersey424,115131,4763.1%

As you can see, the top of the ranking (the states with the most uninsured drivers) tends to have states from the South and the West. The bottom of the ranking — the states with the fewest uninsured drivers — tends to have states from the Midwest and Northeast.

Frequently Asked Questions: Car Insurance Coverage & Risk Protection

Now that we’ve covered numerous topics related to uninsured motorists, let’s get to your frequently asked questions. Scroll down for answers to questions about the claims process, deductible costs, and how UM compares to other types of coverages.

#1 – Is it better to have collision or uninsured motorist coverage?

Collision coverage covers a wider range of incidents — essentially anything related to driving that damages your car. Uninsured motorist coverage is just for the specific situation if you get into an accident with a driver that is uninsured. But collision coverage, because it covers more situations, is more expensive.

#2 – What is the risk of not having uninsured motorist coverage?

If you have collision coverage, there is no risk. But if you don’t and get into an accident with an uninsured motorist, you won’t get reimbursed for the repairs to your vehicle. Your options are very limited in recouping the cost for the damages.

#3 – What are the two types of physical damage coverage?

Collision and comprehensive coverage. They are typically paired together with collision coverage, covering almost everything related to damage while driving and comprehensive for all other situations (theft, vandalism, riots, etc.).

#4 – Do I need uninsured motorist coverage if I have Medicare?

Medicare only covers medical expenses. Uninsured motorist coverage covers damage to your vehicle and/or possibly medical bills. But they are two very separate things.

#5 – What states require uninsured motorist coverage?

The full list is Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

#6 – Do I have to pay a deductible for uninsured motorist coverage?

Typically, uninsured motorist coverage does not have a deductible but different auto insurance companies may offer different UM policies.

#7 – What should you not say to your insurance company after an accident?

Remember that the claims process is a negotiation, so don’t reveal anything that could damage your side of the story. Certainly, never admit to being “at fault.”

#8 – Is it better to have a $500 or $1,000 deductible?

It depends. A lower deductible means you will pay less if you get into an accident. However, a higher deductible means that your auto insurance rates will likely be lower. It’s a personal preference.

Methodology: Uncovering Uninsured Driver Facts in America

For this study, our researchers looked into numerous sources to find any connections between uninsured motorists and other data points. The sources included:

  • Insurance Information Institute: uninsured motorist direct facts
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: traffic death totals
  • National Association of Insurance Commissioners: average auto insurance rate information
  • U.S. Bureau of Market Analysis: average personal income statistics

For the traffic deaths per capita statistic, our analysts compared the total number of traffic deaths per state in 2019 to the 2019 state population listed in the Census Bureau.

Our researchers took the average full coverage premium in each state and contrasted it with the average personal income per resident to find the premium as a percentage of income statistic.

Our experts then used those statistics to draw conclusions about why there might be more uninsured motorists in one state compared to another. All data is for the year 2019 and each individual set was made available to the public sometime between January 2020 and June 2021.

A note about the personal income statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis: These statistics differ greatly from the adjusted gross income reported by the IRS. They include transfer receipts, imputed income, employer contributions to health and pension plans. They represent a much more encompassing look at income compared to “money” or “cash income” that most other organizations report.

Average Monthly Car Insurance Rates by State
States with the Most Uninsured Drivers
States with the Most Uninsured Drivers