Thousands in S.C. Drive With Suspended Licenses

June 7, 2006

About 5 percent of South Carolina’s drivers, more than 156,000, have suspended or revoked licenses, according to South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles records.

But officials say many of those people continue to drive, causing crashes and financial strain because many people with suspended licenses also are uninsured.

“As long as their license is suspended, they would not be covered under any policy,” Allstate insurance agent Tony Long said. “We, the customers, have to bear the cost of uninsured driver.”

The insurance industry does not track how much it costs to pay out claims for drivers who are involved in a crash and are driving illegally.

According to data collected by the South Carolina Insurance News Service, the average cost for an insured driver to carry uninsured motorist coverage is $21 a year.

But if an insured driver is in an accident that was the fault of an uninsured driver, the insured driver’s premiums will go up, said Beth Parks, spokeswoman for the state Motor Vehicles Department. “If you are hit by an uninsured motorist it will be even worse because your premiums will go up for something you didn’t do,” Parks said.
Long said insurance companies try to recoup their losses from the uninsured drivers.

But, sometimes the cost goes beyond dollars.

Kenneth Nelms, whose license had been suspended eight times, crashed his Honda into a van carrying Mildred and Jack Thrasher last November.

Mildred Thrasher was killed.

State records show Nelms’ license was suspended eight times between November 2002 and March 2004.

Nelms had been sentenced to five years’ probation in March 2004 after being convicted of drug possession, grand larceny and driving with a suspended license.

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