While fatal accidents have fallen to a record low on France’s streets, another road danger seems to be on the increase.
From 2008-2013 the number of claims filed with France’s fund for victims of uninsured drivers, Fonds de Garantie des Assurances Obligatoires de Dommages, jumped by 28 percent. The worrying hike has lead safety officials to sound the alarm.
Though car insurance is mandatory for drivers in France, FGAO estimated on Thursday that between 370,000 and 740,000 vehicles are driving without it.
“We have not benefited from the progress on road safety,” FGAO Executive Director François Wagner told reporters on Thursday.
In 2013, the fund handled 27,164 cases up 6.5 percent from 2012 and paid €87.6 million euros in compensation.
It also appears the uninsured are behind more than their fair share of the worst kinds of crashes. Though drivers without insurance represent between one to two percent of the total motorists on the road, they were responsible for six percent of fatal accidents on French roads in 2013 or around 192 deaths.
The uninsured problem seems to be primarily driven by people under the age of 36 and is tied to tough economic times. About 59 percent of drivers between the ages of 18-35, the largest of any age group, are uninsured.
As France battles a stubborn economic crisis and record unemployment, which is particularly high among young people, some are not paying their insurance premiums.
Wagner said the uninsured fall primarily into two categories: willful refusal and simple negligence.
Of the latter category, the proportion of drivers who didn’t pay their premiums rose 45% in 2013, a phenomenon that has been growing since the economic crisis began, Werner told reporters.
Other reasons for lapsed insurance include contracts being cancelled for misconduct by the insured or the loss of a drivers’ license and the sale of a car.
Whatever the reason, drivers who hit the road risk an up to €3,750 fine if they are caught by police. Also the FGAO goes after uninsured drivers to recover any monies it pays out to victims, with payments sometimes hitting millions of euros.