AUSTIN, Texas -- Driving without a license or insurance can be a big problem in Austin, and police are considering policy changes to better address the issue.
Joey Gutierrez, 22, experienced it firsthand in August when an uninsured driver's car rear-ended him on Interstate 35 in south Austin.
Guitierriez spent several days in the ICU.
"During that time I slipped into a cardiac arrest," said Guitierriez.
Guitierriez also slipped into a coma. His pregnant wife, Shawnee Hall, and their 5-year-old son, Josiah, were also in the car.
"And then bam! It felt like an 18-wheeler hit us. My son flew forward and he had a seatbelt and a car seat on. The trunk was in our back seat," said Hall.
Miraculously, Josiah was not hurt. Neither were Hall or her unborn baby.
The driver who hit them has been charged with driving while intoxicated. She also didn't have insurance.
Attorney Brad Bonilla said uninsured drivers are a huge problem.
"You get victimized twice if the driver that hit you doesn't have insurance," said Bonilla.
That's why Guitierrez and his wife are suing to recoup medical expenses and lost wages.
According to the city of Austin, citations given to drivers without insurance range in the thousands.
- 16,139 tickets in 2011
- 13,367 in 2012
- 13,380 in 2013
- 12,681 in 2014
- 10,925 in 2015
- 7,371 through Aug. 29, 2016.
Data shows another major issue on our roadways is unlicensed drivers. Tickets given to this group also range in the thousands.
- 13,172 in 2011
- 13,403 in 2012
- 14,618 in 2013
- 13,934 in 2014
- 12,777 in 2015
- 8,782 through Aug. 29, 2016
Many who receive these citations are immigrants from Mexico.
"Part of the problem is people who have established roots in this country, who have been living here for 10, 15, 20 years, who have families here and who are undocumented, are not able to get a drivers license," said Carlos Gonzalez Gutierrez, the Consul General of Mexico in Austin.
He said the state shouldn't use immigration status as a requirement to get a driver's license. Gonzalez Gutierrez also said the solution lies in a collaboration between governments like the one California has with Mexico. It allows undocumented immigrants to get drivers licenses, once their identities are confirmed by the Mexican government.
The Consul General said he plans to talk to Texas lawmakers about starting a similar program in the next legislative session.
(© 2016 KVUE)