As a state, Kentucky is working hard to overcome some of its insurance problems. Although rates remain fairly reasonable, Kentucky is high on the list for a few problem areas like uninsured drivers and teen accidents. Aggressive changes to state laws are attempting to overturn these issues, although laws in Kentucky are still frequently less severe than in other states.
As of 2011, the average cost of car insurance in Kentucky was $744 per year, placing it as the 22nd most expensive state. It doesn’t fare quite as well for uninsured motorists: Approximately 17.8% of drivers in the state were uninsured in 2009, putting the state in the top 10 for uninsured drivers.
Despite the relatively high number of uninsured drivers, Kentucky residents are required to carry auto insurance, and failure to meet the minimum requirements for coverage will put you at risk of fines. You also cannot obtain or renew a driver’s license or register a vehicle without providing proof of adequate car insurance in Kentucky. Additionally, if your vehicle is found to be uninsured, you registration will be revoked, and you will need to obtain insurance before being able to reinstate it.
Required Coverage & Limits
In Kentucky, three coverages are required by law:
- Bodily Injury Liability – Pays for injuries to other people from accidents you cause, with a limit of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident.
- Property Damage Liability – Pays for property (including other vehicles) that you damage in an at-fault accident, with a limit of $10,000 per incident.
- Personal Injury Protection – Covers you and your passengers against injuries regardless of who is at fault, with limits of $10,000 per person per accident.
Unlike some states, Kentucky does not require that drivers carry uninsured motorist coverage. Uninsured motorist insurance is however available, and it’s a smart idea to carry it since there are so many uninsured drivers in the state.
Special Notes About Kentucky & Auto Insurance
Kentucky has been a no-fault state since 1975. This means that drivers must carry personal injury protection coverage (PIP) on their policies so that their own insurance can pay for injuries arising from an auto accident.
There are currently 12 states with no-fault laws; the rest are tort states, meaning that the person at fault for the accident is responsible for paying for the other party’s injuries. In a no-fault state, a driver’s own insurance covers his injuries, with additional payments coming from the at-fault driver only if the PIP coverage is exhausted.
The purpose of no-fault laws is to reduce the amount of time it takes to obtain payments for medical care after an accident. It also cuts down on an insurance company’s expenses since there are fewer legal fees from lawsuits.
In the state of Kentucky, there are limitations on an individual’s tort rights, or rights to sue and be sued. In Kentucky, you cannot sue another driver for medical expenses, lost wages or pain and suffering unless:
- Your medical expenses exceed $1,000
- You sustain a broken bone
- You sustain permanent injury or disfigurement
- Someone dies in the accident
If you wish, you can reject these limitations (meaning that you’ll be able to sue without meeting these requirements) but you can also be sued under the same circumstances. You’ll need to submit your rejection in writing to the Department of Insurance, and you’ll be required to carry additional PIP insurance and higher liability limits to compensate.
According to MADD, drunk drivers account for over a quarter of traffic-related fatalities in Kentucky. Despite this, Kentucky remains fairly lax in its DUI laws when compared to other states. There is no mandatory ignition interlock law in Kentucky, and there is no permanent license suspension or “three strikes” law.
As of 2010, Kentucky passed a bill prohibiting texting while driving. However, drivers over the age of 18 are still allowed to talk on a cell phone while driving, without the use of a hands-free device.
Teen Driving Rules & Laws
Kentucky utilizes a “graduated driver license” law in an effort to reduce the number of accidents involving young drivers. According to the Kentucky DMV website, about 20% of all crashes in the state involve teen drivers.
The graduated driver license law requires all new drivers to carry a learner’s permit for six months before obtaining a full driver’s license.
To obtain a learner’s permit, you’ll first need to be 16 years of age. Once you have the permit, you will need to log 60 hours of driving time, 10 of which must take place at night, while in the presence of a licensed adult over 21 years of age. This adult is responsible for keeping track of your driving hours. Additionally, while you have a learner’s permit you can only drive with one unrelated passenger under age 20 in the vehicle at a time, and you cannot drive between 12am and 6am.
If you’re under 21, you must drive with a learner’s permit and all of its restrictions for six months. If you’re over 21, you’ll still be required to drive with a learner’s permit, but it’s only necessary for 30 days.
If you receive a traffic citation during this time, your permit waiting period will restart from the beginning.
In addition to completing your 60 required hours of driving, all teens will need to complete a driver’s education course before taking the test and obtaining an “Intermediate License.”
This intermediate license allows you to drive without a licensed adult in the car, but all other learner’s permit restrictions (including passenger limits and driving curfews) are the same.
After you’ve driven without any traffic violations for six months on an intermediate license, you’ll be able to obtain a full, unrestricted license.
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