Ohio law takes away random checks for uninsured drivers

Uninsured drivers who cause accidents cost other motorists and insurance companies millions of dollars a year.

Ohio law requires drivers to have automobile insurance, but a Dayton Daily News investigation with WHIO-TV found little can be done to uninsured drivers unless they are cited for a traffic violation.

Ohio drivers must sign stating that they have auto insurance when they get their drivers license, but they are not required to give proof. The only time motorists are expected to present proof of insurance are at traffic stops, accident scenes, vehicle inspections and traffic court appearances.

The Ohio Department of Public Safety does not track the number of people driving uninsured, spokeswoman Kristen Castle said.

Random insurance checks the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles performed in past years were eliminated in 2019 under a new law.

House Bill 62, a budget bill, was passed in July and changed that policy. The budget bill appropriated nearly $8 billion for transportation and public safety from 2019 to 2021.

It also changed the Ohio BMV's random check policy, said Ohio BMV spokeswoman Lindsey Bohrer. The BMV randomly selected 5,400 registered vehicles per week to provide proof of insurance for a selected date. If a driver failed to show their proof of insurance, their license could be suspended.

The new law takes away the BMV’s power to randomly require drivers to provide insurance verification, Bohrer said.

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This newspaper was not able to reach Rep. Scott Oelslager’s office, the primary sponsor for this bill, for comment.

In 2018, according to BMV data, 1.3 million Ohioans were given non-compliance suspensions, meaning they failed to show proof of insurance at a traffic stop or crash. The suspension can be removed if a valid proof of coverage at the time of the crash is given to the BMV.

The minimum amount of liability insurance an Ohio driver is legally mandated to have is $25,000. If that driver has an accident, insurance will only cover about $25,000 worth of damage or medical costs if someone is injured. Liability coverage only helps pay a claim if the insured person is at fault. It doesn’t pay if someone else is at fault.

Is $25,000 enough?

Rachel and Eric England, of Miamisburg, had to learn about that the hard way.

When a driver had a seizure and crashed into their condo in 2017, ripping down stairs and casting glass all over their home, the Englands had to live in a hotel for nine months and pay thousands of dollars to repair their condo.

The driver had the minimum amount of insurance. The Englands said that $25,000 went straight to their condo association. They had to work with their insurance to cover the rest.

“I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. It was very stressful,” England said.

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Mark Friedlander, spokesman for the Insurance Information Institute, said the average car accident settlement is $21,000, according to 2017 data.

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“So in a lot of cases, $25,000 of coverage would be enough. But some settlements can run you into six figures,” Friedlander said. “What do you do if you’re not covered? Can you pay that out of pocket?”

The National Insurance Institute estimates there are currently about 13% of motorists in the U.S. who drive without insurance. In Ohio, about 12.4% drive without insurance, Friedlander said.

That means about 995,000 drivers in Ohio are on the roads without auto insurance.

When a driver without insurance runs into someone, the person who was hit is the party that must bear the financial burden.

Pastor Kendall Washington was hit by an uninsured driver.

“I ended up in the ER, they did a series of tests,” Washington said.

Washington says if he hadn’t hired a lawyer, he would have been out thousands of his own dollars after the crash.

RELATED: Crashes with uninsured motorists cost millions

By the numbers

995,000 - the number drivers in Ohio without auto insurance

13% - percentage of motorists in the U.S. who drive without insurance

$726 - the average cost of an auto insurance policy in Ohio, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners

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