The troubled U.S. economy is driving up the number of uninsured motorists. A correlation between unemployment and uninsured drivers always seemed logical, but now the Insurance Research Council has put a number on the phenomenon.
"If the unemployment rate goes up by 1 percent, we would anticipate that the percentage of people who are uninsured would go up by three-fourths of 1 percent," says David Corum, of the Malvern, Pa.-based group.
IRC researchers looked back at over 20 years of data and found that unemployment and uninsured driver statistics track very closely. Since the unemployment rate is expected to increase at least through 2010, Corum predicts that the number of uninsured will rise in tandem.
"We are anticipating that the percentage of people who go uninsured will increase from 13.8 percent in 2007, to a little over 16 percent in 2010," he says.
If it's possible to predict a rise in uninsured drivers, then maybe it can be prevented. Consumer advocates such as Rosemary Shahan with Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety suggest help for low-income drivers.
Shahan's home state of California started a low-cost auto insurance pilot program in 1999. It was expanded to include the entire state in 2007. Under the program, a family of four earning less than $53,000 a year can get a bare-bones insurance policy for under $400 a year.
Corum suggests other ways to reduce insurance costs: raise deductibles, reduce coverage or sell extra vehicles that aren't used much.