More Indiana drivers are suspended, uninsured
Cat Andersen/Eyewitness News
Indianapolis - The recession is pushing the number of uninsured drivers in Indiana to an all-time high. More people are also driving with suspended licenses. It's taking a toll on drivers who follow the rules of the road.
They're not the type of drivers you can catch with a radar gun, but they're on Indiana State Trooper Shana Kennedy's radar. Kennedy says they're not hard to find.
"Let me see your license," she asked a driver she had pulled over. The man was driving a truck hauling what appeared to be a large tree.
"I don't have one," the driver responded, and then admitted to having a suspended license.
There are nearly 350,000 suspended drivers in Indiana and at least a third of them have been caught driving illegally at least once before.
"They're the same ones that you see over and over. I mean, just look at the violations, how many times they've been caught," Kennedy said.
"He said he just got out of jail for driving while suspended. We're towing the truck," she added. "We have an expired plate. We have false and fictitious. We have no insurance. And we have somebody that is suspended prior."
A recent study shows suspended drivers are almost four times as likely to be involved in a fatal crash...
"They have proven to be bad drivers or intoxicated or impaired drivers," said Prosecutor Brad Cooper, Johnson County.
Prosecutors say they are some of the least likely drivers to carry insurance.
"A lot of people get suspended because they're not insured," said Cooper.
Studies show one in five drivers in Indiana are on the road without insurance.
"There's just so many of them odds are one of them is going to pop up and cause a crash," said Kennedy.
If they crash into you, and you don't have additional uninsured motorist coverage, you could be stuck paying out of pocket for all the damage, even if the accident wasn't your fault. If a driver without insurance totals your car, you have to pay for another one.
"That's why I don't mind taking their vehicles and making it harder for them to drive," said Kennedy.
"If you can't afford to have your license and you can't afford to be insured then you should not be driving," said Cooper.
The recession is making the problem worse.
"Over 50 percent of the docket is driving while suspended. Whether it be infraction or the misdemeanor," said Sharon Thompson, Franklin City Court clerk. "More people are getting arrested. I think more people are taking chances and just driving trying to get around."
But prosecutors say that's no excuse.
"If you're telling me that you're not going to get your license back and you're not going to get insured and you're going to keep on driving, we're going to put you in a cage to prevent you from driving," said Cooper.
The first time someone is caught driving with a suspended license it's a class A infraction. That usually carries about a $150 fine. The next time they're caught it's a class A misdemeanor and they could be looking at $5,000 in fines and up to a year in jail.
The only way you can protect yourself if you're in an accident with a suspended driver who doesn't have insurance is to make sure you have full coverage on your own insurance policy including uninsured motorist coverage.