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November 25, 2005 10:00 PM

Uninsured Drivers

It's a scary fact. Each day, you share the road with drivers who don't have car insurance.

The Insurance Research Council estimates that six percent of South Dakotans don't pay for insurance on their vehicles, but still drive. An accident can happen to anyone. But the impact is even worse when the person who hits you is uninsured.

Del Jensen remembers April 29th of 2000 very well. That's the day his Chevy Silverado turned into a pile of twisted metal and broken glass.

"The cab protected us from being killed," he said.

Jensen and his family were hit by an uninsured driver who didn't stop at a stop sign.

"We rolled three times, and ended up in the ditch," he said.

He spent days in the hospital, and racked up nearly $80,000 in medical bills. Bills that Jensen was forced to pay himself.

"There isn't much you can do about it, there's no insurance what can you do? You can sue them but there's no money there so you end up with your own medical bills," he said.

"It happens all the time," said Lt. Jerome Miller with the Sioux Falls Police Department.

Police in Sioux Falls say people driving without insurance is nothing new, but it's still a serious problem.

"So now you've been victimized twice. Once by the crash, and you have to pay for damage to you and your property that somebody else inflicted," Miller said.

Catching a driver without insurance isn't easy. Unless you are pulled over or are involved in an accident, an officer would never know you aren't covered.

"I can't just look at you and say, I think I'll check your insurance," Miller said.

But drivers who are caught without coverage are sent before a judge. If they can't show proof of insurance, they can face a fine, jail time, and a suspended licence.

"Judges are very specific when they say do not drive," he said.

Keeping the uninsured off the road is designed to protect other drivers. But the system doesn't always work.

"Some of them are even bold enough to park right in the parking lot out front," he said.

Our cameras caught an uninsured, unlicensed driver in the act. This man just had his licence suspended for not having proof of insurance. The judge ordered him not to drive, but we watched him get into his car, and drive away from the courthouse.

"It's a responsibility you assume when you say I'm going to drive a vehicle in the state of South Dakota," Miller said.

State law requires all drivers maintain insurance coverage. It's a law to make sure more people like Del Jensen aren't left holding the bill for someone else's bad decision.

"There's no reason for it, everyone else has to pay insurance, they do too," Jensen said.

"Nobody plans to have an accident, nobody plans to have a crash," Miller said.

Jensen's own insurance helped him cover the cost of his outstanding bills. In the last year, Sioux Falls police have written nearly 6,000 citations for people who failed to provide proof of insurance during a traffic stop or after an accident.


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