UNINSURED motorists

Thursday, July 19th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

It's a problem that could affect you any time you get behind the wheel. Nearly one in five drivers in Oklahoma has no insurance. KOTV's Emory Bryan has one man's story of how it affected him.

When a person without insurance hits someone, it's the victim that often has to pay - at least a deductible and maybe more. Rob Lyons spent part of Wednesday morning at his insurance company, getting an estimate for damage to his car. "The door locks won't work and the window won't work." Both doors are damaged on one side - and the repairs will cost thousands. "Even tough I didn't do anything and was in the right and didn't do anything wrong, I've still got to pay for it." And he's not alone - 17% of Oklahoma drivers are uninsured - even though the law requires it. Kelly Dunkerley, State Farm Insurance: "Ultimately the burden for uninsured motorists is spread upon those who do have insurance."

Insurance companies like State Farm try to go after uninsured drivers who hit their policyholders - but the victims insurance usually ends up paying the claim. "If the other party doesn't have insurance, you can have damages, and if you're injured, that too handled under your own coverage, then your insurance company will take care of tracking down the other party and recovering what is possible to recover."

The driver that hit Lyons had no insurance and no license and left the scene, but in Oklahoma, all those are misdemeanors worth about $800 in fines and rarely any time in jail. Lyons says he's seen the guy who hit him - back behind the wheel. "I thought that they would be somehow stopped from driving again." But actually - a driver with a suspended license and no insurance has little incentive not to drive - only the threat they could be caught again.

It's up to the officer whether to issue a ticket or take them to jail, and in many cases, they'll just get a ticket.