Ohio’s FR law and uninsured driver facts

Updated: January 20, 2009

In Ohio, it’s illegal to drive a motor vehicle without insurance or other means of Financial Responsibility (FR). It’s also illegal for any motor vehicle owner to allow anyone to drive the owner’s vehicle without maintaining FR.

Ohio’s FR law applies to:

  • Owners of registered vehicles in Ohio
  • Those with Ohio driver licenses or those applying for any type of Ohio drivers license, including a probationary license
  • Motorists leasing vehicles from licensed dealers

1. Maintaining and monitoring FR enforcement

FR proof is monitored and verified in several ways. Because these are ongoing verification efforts, violators are caught in the act, eliminating loopholes in the enforcement of the law.

Proof of FR is required in the following circumstances:

  • Stopped for a moving violation, a vehicle safety inspection or involvement in a traffic accident
  • Upon BMV request for FR proof if involved in a crash causing injury, death or more than $400 in property damage and a Motor Vehicle Crash Report was filed by another driver
  • Involved in a violation requiring a court appearance
  • When contacted by mail through the Ohio BMV random verification program

The Ohio BMV administers Ohio’s random verification program. It’s a cost-effective enforcement mechanism with little chance of evasion by those who are notified and are asked to provide FR proof.

The FR random verification program, which went into effect in December 1998, ensures greater compliance with the state’s FR law. 5% of Ohio’s registered vehicle and noncommercial truck owners are randomly selected and mailed FR verification letters (about 5,400 weekly or 280,000 annually). Recipients are given 21 days to respond to this first request for FR proof.

How it works:

  • The Ohio BMV sends a letter requesting FR proof. Recipients are required to send the BMV within 21 days a copy of one of the following: Auto insurance policy’s declaration page auto insurance ID card or a copy of the authorized FR bond.
  • If not provided, the BMV allows up to 10 days before mailing a “Notice of Suspension.” The notice provides a 60-day grace period for the recipient to provide FR proof.
  • A second notice of suspension is sent via certified mail 42 days prior to the suspension date. According to the Ohio Department of Public Safety, motorists are given up to 90 days to provide FR proof.

Owners of seasonally driven vehicles can satisfy program requirements by providing a letter from their insurance agent or company stating that the vehicle is insured on a seasonal basis. This information should be mailed to: Ohio BMV, P.O. Box 390, Richfield, OH 44286-0390. For online information, click here.

2. Ohio uninsured motorist statistics
Through Ohio’s random verification program, those found in violation of the law have their drivers license suspended, among other penalties. These figures provide the basis of determining the number of uninsured motorists (UM) in Ohio.

According to the BMV, Ohio’s random verification program has found that about 9% of Ohio drivers are either uninsured or not in compliance with Ohio’s FR law, on average, for the past few years.

With the exception of 2006 when the BMV changed vendors for its program, 280,000 Ohio drivers have been randomly selected for FR verification annually.

Suspensions generated by year as a result of this program and the percentage of uninsured they represent are:
2005       27,655       9.9%
*2006       19,313       N/A
2007       23,846       8.5%
2008       24,866       8.9%
* BMV changed vendors for its program in 2006 and fewer notices were mailed during the transition. Annual percentage rate of uninsured is not available.

3. Compulsory insurance vs. FR law, what’s best for Ohio drivers?

If you’ve ever been involved in a crash with an uninsured motorist, you might wonder why Ohio doesn’t require auto insurance.

Many states that require proof of insurance upon vehicle or driver registration have higher auto insurance premiums than Ohio. Drivers in the Buckeye state maintain auto insurance premiums that are $163 lower than the US average, based on 2006 premiums.

Also, there is no guaranty that a person in a mandated insurance law state maintains auto insurance after license renewal. A person may choose to cancel his/her insurance after applying or renewing a license, skirting the mandatory insurance law. Also fake insurance ID cards are easily obtainable by those choosing to evade state laws.

A case in point: Alabama. Legislation passed in 1999 initially required Alabama drivers to show proof of insurance when registering vehicles, but a revision the following year struck this requirement down. Critics said it would have created logistical nightmares in government offices and allowed people to cancel their policies once they got their tags.

Requiring coverage for those with few assets to protect is becoming less and less effective. Poorer states historically tend to have a greater percentage of uninsured drivers in part because those on the lower end of the income scale have less to protect and more immediate financial needs than auto insurance coverage. This is becoming in more prevalent nationally given the instability of the US economy and employment outlook.

4. Financial Responsibility of Ohio drivers in crashes (2000-07)

The following information is provided to further explain the chances of involvement in a crash with an uninsured driver in Ohio. An average of only 4.2% of drivers involved in crashes for the years 2000-07 were uninsured, and 3% were found to be at-fault.

CLICK HERE for a chart that includes:

  • Number of crashes in Ohio by year (2000-07)
  • Number of drivers involved in crashes found to be in FR compliance through insurance or other means
  • Number of drivers involved in crashes not stating FR compliance
  • Number of drivers in crashes who were uninsured or in violation of Ohio’s FR law
  • Uninsured drivers as a percentage of drivers in all crashes
  • The number of UM drivers who were at fault (in error) in crashes
  • Drivers who were at-fault and uninsured as a percentage of all crashes

5. Uninsured motorist coverage – An effective means of protecting drivers:

Most Ohio drivers choose to meet their financial responsibility obligations by purchasing auto insurance. Ohio’s insurance marketplace is vibrant and competitive with more auto insurance carriers than all but one state, Illinois. (Source: A.M. Best)

Ohio’s auto insurance market offers a variety of coverages and limits of liability to fit everyone’s needs while charging some of the lowest average premiums in the country. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM) – which protects drivers from uninsured drivers or drivers carrying low limits – is widely available and affordable. The cost of UM/UIM coverage is $40-50 annually based on the limits of coverage and insurance carrier.

6. Protection afforded Ohio drivers involved in crashes with at-fault, uninsured motorists:

Ohio law prohibits insurers from increasing the cost of an insured’s private passenger auto insurance policy for involvement in one or more accidents with uninsured or underinsured motorists. This applies if the insured’s actions were not the proximate cause of any loss, damage, injury or death arising out of such accidents and if the insured has not been convicted of, pleaded guilty to, or pleaded no contest to, a violation of law in these accidents.