No info from the other driver? No cash.

Cars and trucks driving on California's Interstate 10 freeway.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Bill Radke: Here is one of the many side effects of double-digit unemployment: Because people are struggling to pay their bills, it's believed there are more uninsured drivers on the road now than in decades. And what does that mean to you? Here's Los Angeles Times business columnist David Lazarus. Hi, David.

David Lazarus: Good morning.

Radke: And you have a story to tell us?

Lazarus: A couple of months ago, I wrote a column about a woman in Southern California who was driving along the freeway, got rear-ended by someone else, and then started heading towards the side of the road so that they could exchange information. What happened? The car behind her took off at a run. She tried to give chase -- bad idea -- and she ended up being on the hook for hundreds of dollars in damage to her vehicle, because most insurers will not cover collission damages, even when you get rear-ended, if you can't identify the other driver. I did a whole column about that, got a lot of e-mail from people who had similar experiences, really felt their pain . . . and then this.

Radke: Uh oh. What happened?

Lazarus: Well I guess this is from the "life imitates art" file, because just last week I was driving along the exact same freeway that this other woman was driving along. We were in stop-go traffic, and what happened -- bang -- I got rear-ended in the middle of the road. All right, now you can't get out in the middle of the freeway, especially in L.A., so I roll down my window, point to the shoulder and say, "We're gonna go over there." And then I start picking my way across three lanes of very busy L.A. freeway -- not something for the faint of heart. The car behind me, a white sedan, looked like it had a couple of teenagers inside of it, started following me. I'm paying attention to the road, I get over to the shoulder, look around . . . and I'm all alone.

Radke: Yes. You and your cell phone camera, snapping photos of its license plate as it speeds away?

Lazarus: If only I had thought to do that, because I'm left holding the bag -- like the woman in my column -- for the damage to my vehicle.

Radke: Cars go fast. What's a driver supposed to do?

Lazarus: First of all, you never give chase. The cops say that's just nuts. What you need to do if you want to make your insurer happy, is get the information if you can. The problem is in a situation like mine, I couldn't. Perhaps one thought is you climb into the back seat and see if you can use your cell phone camera to get a picture of the other person's license plate. I don't know, it seems a little, you know, extreme to have to do something like that. I guess the take-away I'd want others to have is, it can happen.

Radke: L.A. Times business columnist David Lazarus. Thank you.

Lazarus: Thank you.

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