I-Team: Loophole prevents tracking uninsured drivers in Ohio

MIAMI VALLEY — Cars crashing into homes and businesses in the Miami Valley is just one example of a frequent problem on Ohio roads.

But tracking if Ohio drivers are insured is impossible. A little known change in Ohio law last year stopped the state from tracking which drivers are uninsured.

News Center 7’s I-Team reporter Kayla Courvell looked into a potential loophole leaving drivers’ safety at risk and what happens when insured victims end up paying for the under and uninsured.

When inside Rachel and Eric England’s Miamisburg condo, you’d never be able to tell all the damage that was done after a driver had a seizure and drove into their living room in September 2017.

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“There was a hole in this wall through to the garage,” Eric said. “Our couches were full of glass. We had to get all new furniture.”

The crash forced the Englands to leave. They were in a hotel for nine months.

“We had my daughter’s wedding, a grandbaby and a graduation in all that time,” said Rachel. “We didn’t have our home to share with our family. We felt like we were homeless.”

The cost was more than emotional.

It turned out the driver only had the minimum amount of insurance required under Ohio law — $25,000.

And that money went right to the Englands’ condo association.

They were lucky, though. They had other policies. Otherwise it could have cost them almost $100,000 out of pocket.

“We were stressed a lot about insurance, because we know on our part that we do what we’re supposed to do,” said Eric. “We have what we’re supposed to have.”

Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers are just one of the many law enforcement agencies tasked with making sure a driver who’s pulled over or involved in a crash has insurance.

“If we mark that and you’re not able to provide that to the court house in a timely manner, the BMV will take steps to revoke your license,” said Trooper Sheldon Goodrum.

But when the I-Team asked troopers for the number of uninsured drivers getting traffic citations, their spokesperson said they do not track them.

Ohio law only requires that a citation include insurance verification. That’s not the same as tracking uninsured drivers.

Drivers are not immediately cited if they do not have proof of insurance.

That’s supposed to happen eventually at a local court house.

When the I-Team asked the Bureau of Motor Vehicles if they tracked that information, they said a new law prevented it.

Before t e law changed, as a precaution, the BMV required Ohio drivers to prove they had insurance.

As a result, in 2018, 43,000 Ohio drivers had their licenses suspended.

But as of last summer, the new law stopped that.

The insurance Information Institute estimates there are currently 950,000 uninsured Ohio drivers.

News Center 7’s own tracking of cars crashing into buildings showed there were more than 100 last year.

But because of the lack of insurance tracking, there is no way to tell which drivers were uninsured.

Right now, the only reasons you would need to show proof of insurance are if you’re involved in a crash, issued a traffic citation or have your vehicle inspected.

Dayton person injury attorney Michael Wright represents clients like Dayton Pastor Kendall Washington.

He said that if he hasn’t hired a lawyer, he would’ve been out thousands of his own dollars after an uninsured driver T-boned the truck he was riding in.

“I ended up in the ER,” said Washington.

One of the biggest loopholes, from Wright’s perspective, is like the Englands’ case, where the victim or their insurance company could be liable to pay.

“You go to the ER, that’s going to be a few thousand bucks. If you have any follow up treatment, that’s going to be several thousand dollars,” said Wright. “If you have damage to your vehicle, that’s thousands of dollars. So I think the state minimum needs to be raised.”

But who is left paying the costs?

In the Englands’ case, their costs was almost six figures.

Because their insurance paid, their rates increased.

“I wouldn’t with this on anyone,” said Eric. “It was very stressful.”

Kayla Courvell

I was born and raised in a small town just north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and decided as a child I was going to be a news reporter.