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How many drivers illegally behind wheel?

FHP: Over 13 percent in Duval, Clay, St. Johns driving without valid license

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Hundreds of thousands of drivers hit the road each day, but how many of those motorist are legally qualified to be behind the wheel?

Data obtained by News4Jax from the Florida Highway Patrol show just over 13 percent of drivers in Duval, Clay and St. Johns counties are either driving with a suspended or revoked license, or no have license at all.

It's illegal to drive without a license in the U.S. In Florida, drivers caught without a license can face a $500 fine or up to 60 days in jail the first time they're caught.

That could be the fate awaiting a woman who police said hit a boy with her SUV Monday outside Terry Parker High School. Police said the woman was driving with a suspended license and does not have insurance.

In Florida, drivers caught with a suspended license face misdemeanors for first- and second-time offenses, which could mean jail time and fines. A third offense is a felony under state law.

Troopers said improperly licensed drivers are a growing problem in Florida.

In St. Johns County, 12,173 of 186,794 drivers (about 7 percent) have either no license or a suspended license. In Clay County, that number is more than 8 percent (13,749 of 163,242 drivers).

In Duval County, roughly 16 percent of drivers (110,914 of 697,224) don't have the proper license to be behind the wheel.

When added together that means 136,836 of 1,047,260 drivers (or about 13 percent) in the three counties are improperly licensed.

And if those drivers don't have the proper auto insurance, they're putting other drivers at risk.

Auto insurance expert Mitch Mitchell, owner of Nsurance Nation, recommended a few policies if a driver is involved in an accident with an improperly licensed driver.

"You want to have the liability coverage, so if you hurt someone, you can take care of the damages you caused," Mitchell said. "If you care about your vehicle, you need to have comprehensive and collision to take care of the damages to your vehicle."

The third policy Mitchell recommended is uninsured motorist coverage. It's not mandatory in Florida, but it can protect a driver who's involved in an accident with an uninsured driver. Mitchell said that helps ensure that the covered driver is not the one penalized for someone else's negligence.

"The uninsured-motorist policy takes care of your medical bills if you suffer an injury by someone who can't pay for that for you," Mitchell said.

Mitchell also warned that there could be consequences for uninsured drivers.

"If you do not have the Florida state minimum coverage, you could lose your license," he said.