Continued from page 1

“You may have a bankrupt or insolvent defendant from whom you can’t collect,” he said.

Before you consider driving without insurance, you should know that the penalties may include fines, which in many states cost more than the annual premium for the minimum insurance. Some states also revoke or suspend the car registration or license of uninsured drivers and in some cases take license plates or impound vehicles. A few states may jail violators.

In five states — Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, New Mexico and Oklahoma — nearly a fourth of the drivers had no insurance in 2007, the most recent state statistics available, the IRC said.

States with the lowest uninsured driver estimates were Maine, New York, North Dakota and Vermont, which all had less than 6 percent of drivers with no insurance. Massachusetts was the lowest, with just 1 percent.

Mark Martin, who runs an auto body shop in Ankeny, Iowa, on the northwest edge of Des Moines, said some of his customers have fallen victim to uninsured drivers.

“We do see that. I can’t say that we’ve seen a higher percentage of that yet, but it’s a problem,” he said.

He experienced firsthand the frustration when an uninsured driver rear-ended his Lincoln Mark VIII a few years ago.

Damage came to about $3,500, and after his $1,000 deductible was taken out, about $2,500 remained to be collected. Mr. Martin said he was very frustrated when his insurance company decided not to go after the driver for the money. Mr. Martin ended up not filing the claim and later fixed the car himself.

“I didn’t want to have a nervous breakdown over it, so I just decided not to do anything and later on I repainted the whole car, so I fixed it at that point,” he said.

While you may have a clean driving record, more than 6 million crashes were reported to police nationwide in 2007, and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimates 10 million or more crashes are never reported to police each year.