SIOUX FALLS, SD
Car accidents can happen anytime, anywhere. But if you're ever hit by an uninsured driver and you're seriously injured, you could be looking at a long painful recovery, both physically and financially.
A KELOLAND News investigation reveals the alarming number of people who are driving uninsured and how the economy may be to blame.
Having an accident is one thing. Being hit by an uninsured driver is another. Just ask Dayna Christensen. She got hit by an uninsured driver, then blindsided by what he said next.
"He got out of the car and he's like, 'Don't call the cops,' and I was like, 'Great,'" Christensen said.
She instinctively knew why he said that.
"No insurance. That was the first thing that came to my mind and it made the pit in my stomach for a second," Christensen said.
Thankfully she wasn't seriously injured.
Even though Christensen had full coverage, she had to pay the $2,500 deductible herself.
"Uninsured drivers; that's probably one of the most common violations we see," Sioux Falls Police Public Information Officer Sam Clemens said.
KELOLAND News decided to see just how many people are driving without insurance. It was shocking. Case after case after case, the Minnehaha County courtrooms are filled with uninsured drivers on any given day.
We decided to take our cameras and follow people who were cited and fined for no proof of insurance. Don Jorgensen:
Don Jorgensen of KELO. We're doing a story on uninsured drivers and I saw you didn't have any proof of insurance. Driver
: Yep. Jorgensen:
Tell me why you were driving without insurance. Driver:
That was back in 2001; I really don't even remember the case to tell you the truth.
We found in many cases drivers had insurance, but only after they had been caught and fined. Jorgensen:
Didn't they just tell you you didn't have any insurance? Driver:
Yeah, but I got insurance, you want to see it? Jorgensen:
For this vehicle? Driver:
This man was cited for no proof of insurance. He told us why he dropped it.
"For the last few years, with the way everything has gone, I lost hours at work. Just gone from 40 hours a week down to 32 hours a week. Losing 16 hours a check is big money for me and makes it a little harder to get by, pay for rent and eat, get to work and everywhere else. One of those things if I can't afford it, I can't pay it," John McLemore said.
The Insurance Research Council says a recent study found there's a direct correlation between unemployment and uninsured drivers.
"They say, 'I used to have insurance, but it got too expensive.' They have to prioritize is what they're saying, and that's one of the easy things to drop and car insurance has a tendency to be expensive," Clemens said.
During the two days we attended court, there were 34 people there for no proof of insurance. Jorgensen:
Did you ever think about what would have happened if you would have got into an accident and accidentally hurt someone? McLemore:
It would have been a big deal, which I'm glad it's kind of an eye opening experience honestly to get it all taken care of.
But while he's now insured, you can rest assure, there are thousands of others driving the streets uninsured.
"I think there's a lot more uninsured drivers out there than we realize and it's really uncomforting," Christensen said.