By Trevor Fraser, Orlando Sentinel

A new study says 20% of Florida drivers (more than one in five) are on the road without insurance, the sixth highest rate of uninsured drivers in the nation.

Florida was the sixth-worst state in the nation for uninsured motorists with a rate of 20.4% driving unprotected. Mississippi was first with a rate of 29.4%. New Jersey had the fewest uninsured drivers at 3.1%.

The national average was 12.9%. The study did not address what caused the disparity in rates among the states.

Florida requires proof of Personal Injury Protection and Property Damage Liability auto insurance to register a vehicle. Drivers need a minimum of $10,000 of both types of protection and coverage must be continuous throughout the life of the vehicle whether or not it is being used.

Failure to maintain adequate insurance can result in a driver’s license being suspended and a reinstatement fee of up to $500.

“There is a competitive auto insurance market in Florida,” said Alexis Bakofsky, spokeswoman with the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. “OIR urges consumers to find the coverage that best suits their needs and ask their insurance agent if they are eligible for premium relief or discounts.”

The average annual rate of insurance in Florida is $1,878, or 36% higher than the national average, according to insurance comparison website thezebra.com. People looking to compare rates in their county can use the CHOICES rating tool at the OIR website, floir.com.

The study compiled its estimates by looking at 2019 data from 11 insurers representing 60% of the private passenger auto insurance market.

Drivers in accidents with uninsured motorists can wind up absorbing at least some of the cost of the accident, even when it wasn’t their fault. Alyssa Rose of Orlando had her car hit in the parking lot of a concert venue by a driver who fled. When the driver was caught, he admitted to the crime, but Rose was still on the hook for her $500 deductible.

“It was more frustrating dealing with the insurance company than the accident,” she said.

Want to reach out? Email tfraser@orlandosentinel.com.

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