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Danger Ahead

KODE's Jennifer Penate take a look at the number of illegal drivers on the road and how they put thousands of people at risk of unjust injury and financial burden.
JOPLIN, MO.--- Missouri law enforcement will tell you driving in the Show Me State is a privilege, and to maintain that privilege, each driver must do certain things. Among them, have a valid driver's license and carry vehicle insurance. The number of individuals not following these two laws is in a constant increase.
When getting in the car, many of us don't think about the dangers associated with being on the road, that's not the case for Megan Garcia. Driving has proved to be a frustrating journey through the years, resulting in a fear of getting behind the wheel.

Megan Garcia, who was injured by an illegal driver said, "Not that I didn't drive, but it definitely took some time to be less nervous and anxious." Last summer, Garcia was driving on 4th Street when a car struck hers. "Someone that shouldn't have been on the road that had already done a bunch of things illegally, plowed into me and then left the scene, and I'm just left here in a broken car with a broken body. It was just very emotional," said Garcia. 

This was the fourth time Garcia had been hit by an unlicensed and uninsured driver. You're probably thinking, she has bad luck. The chance of these types of accidents happening to you are higher than you might think. From 2009 to 2013, the number of unlisenced divers has increased by 31.36%.

Sgt. Mike Watson of the Missouri Highway patrol said over the last fiver years they have seen an increase in the number of arrests. 
Last year, the Missouri Highway Patrol cited 19,289 people for driving without a valid license, most of those either had a suspended or a revoked license.  Watson says that some type of alcohol related conviction, and too many moving violations are usually the main reason's for a revoked license.
Like in Garcia's case, many unlicensed drivers don't have insurance. In Missouri, troopers cited 30,000 uninsured drivers in 2013 for failure to show proof of coverage.

Personal Injury Attorney Will Peteron says, "The drivers who are uninsured are often the most riskiest and dangerous drivers out there on the road."

Peterson, who is a former prosecutor said that when he was in that position, he prosecuted individuals who were caught driving without insurance on a weekly basis.  As a personal injury attorney, he represents these victims and most of these cases are a lost cause. "What happens is, there's no insurance and no assets to go after to help the person who suffered the injuries, and essentially leaves that person holding the bill for hundreds and hundreds of dollars," said Peterson. 

This is a reality Garcia knows way to well. A wreck she had no fault in, left her car unsalvagable, wrist injured and bills piling up. "My insurance takes on all the responsibility, so my premiums go up regardless of whose fault it is. It's just a hassle. It's unfair," said Garcia. 

According to Peterson, there's no way around it- saying the only way to protect yourself against unresponsible drivers is to pay more for unisured motorists coverage, giving you more security in case of an accident.

A lesson learned for Garcia. "I have full coverage because I've had this situation and it helps take care of me. It's just frustrating that it seems like people that don't, there's not a bad enough punishment for them," said Garcia. 

Law enforcement say it's not easy to get unlicensed and uninsured drivers off the road, the only way to find out is if they stop a driver for another traffic offense or during a crash investigation. Punishment for a first violation is a fine of up to $300, after that it's up to a $300 fine and 15 days in jail.

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