Unlicensed drivers putting the public at risk - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

WNCN Investigates

Unlicensed drivers putting the public at risk

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

Chances are one of the drivers next to you on the road is behind the wheel illegally.

According to AAA, a whopping 1 in 7 drivers in North Carolina are on the roads without a license. And if that isn't alarming enough, they usually aren't insured either.

First Sgt. Jeff Gordon has been with the North Carolina Highway Patrol for 20 years, and he says this is one of the biggest problems on traffic stops and at accidents.

"In 2012, we in the Highway Patrol cited about 47,000 people for having no operators license," he said.

And the Highway Patrol says don't blame one section of the population for being unlicensed or uninsured _ they see offenders of every stripe.

That is costing you millions in insurance hikes each year – and putting lives at risk.

The AAA says those without a license are five times more likely to crash into you. One reason is a lot of them are driving drunk.

Here's more from AAA:

  • 21 percent of fatal crashes in North Carolina involved an unlicensed driver.
  • Young adults between 21 and 34 were most likely to have suspended or revoked licenses. 

Those numbers worry drivers like Jerry Jester of Cary.

"I do worry about the other people out there and I probably drive more by my mirrors than the windshield," he said.

If a driver is caught without a license, he or she would cited and could face a fine.

But AAA said that's not enough.

"We believe we would see a big difference if the penalties were more severe," said Jodi Woolard with AAA.

She said North Carolina is one of the most lenient states when it comes to cracking down on offenders. And the problem is on the rise, as AAA sees North Carolina as a safe harbor for illegal driving.

"They just fly under the radar until they are involved in an accident," she said.

The organization plans to lobby the legislature to do more.

But WNCN Investigates wanted answers now. We went straight to the top--the Governor's Office and Secretary of Public Safety Kieran Shanahan.

"It is a concern when we have unlicensed drivers," said Shanahan. "Now the problem is, when you talk about this category of folks, it includes a number of people."

That can range from someone who forgot their license at home to the true law breakers. Shanahan said troopers are constantly being trained in how to weed out the wrongdoers.

Shanahan plans to give the issue a closer look after WNCN brought the issue to his attention.

"We want drivers to be licensed, and we are worried about the safety of everyone else on the roads," he said.

After all, your money and safety hang in the balance.

Jonathan Carlson

Jonathan is an investigative reporter and anchor with over a decade of experience. Jonathan has broken stories that have resulted in local and statewide change. Contact our Investigative Team anytime HERE. More>>

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