If you’re driving through Gregg County, look around — one in every six vehicles you see is driven by someone who is uninsured — the highest rate in Northeast Texas.
Farmers Insurance Agent Tony Glanton in Marshall said he’s seen his share of liability claims resulting from clients who are hit by uninsured drivers.
“One out of every five liability claims I process deals with an accident involving an uninsured driver,” Glanton said.
The Texas Department of Insurance estimates Texans pay almost $1 billion in extra costs in insurance premiums every year to protect themselves against the millions of drivers who don’t have insurance or who are underinsured.
Alex Rhyne, also a Farmers Insurance Agent in Marshall, said, depending on driving record and vehicle, a driver could pay up to $25 more a month for uninsured motorist coverage.
Longview police spokeswoman Kristi Brian said the department processes wrecks involving uninsured motorists every day.
The penalty for not having liability insurance in Texas is a citation for a first offense, Brian said. An uninsured driver will have his vehicle towed and impounded for subsequent offenses with no insurance.
The Texas Department of Insurance reports 14 percent of Texas drivers — 2.5 million — don’t carry the required liability insurance or have unmatched registrations.
Still, the situation has improved since 2009 when the state launched the TexasSure Campaign, funded with an annual $1 fee all Texans pay when renewing their vehicle registrations.
The program has boosted compliance with the state’s mandatory insurance law, reducing the number of uninsured drivers from 4 million — 22 percent — when it was implemented to 2.5 million — 14 percent — in June, the most recent data available.
Insurance department spokesman Jerry Hagins said TexasSure is a database that enables law enforcement officers to check vehicle registration during traffic stops.
“Some people buy short-term policies and then after their car is registered, they cancel it,” he said.
The TexasSure vehicle insurance verification database, similar to programs in 30 other states, is a joint project of several Texas agencies including the departments of insurance, motor vehicles, public safety and department of resources.
Penalties for first-time offenders are a fine of up to $350 plus court costs and may be assessed additional fees. Repeat offenders face fines of up to $1,000 and a two-year driver’s license suspension.