Registration Errors

Police stop cars for 'zero' mistakes

17 February 2010

AA Insurance has seen a sharp increase in the number of drivers being stopped by police because simple number plate errors have been made on their insurance record. Such mistakes are coming to light as police automatic number plate recognition (anpr) equipment – used to identify uninsured drivers – becomes more widespread.

Motorists who have made simple registration errors on their insurance applications are being stopped by police – and occasionally having their cars confiscated as a result.

Mistakes, such as transposing letters or numbers or getting a 0 and O mixed up, may mean that automatic number plate recognition (anpr) technology, which is increasingly carried both on police vehicles and at fixed roadside locations, won't recognise that the car is insured.


Simon Douglas, director of AA Car Insurance, says: "Over the past few months we have seen a sharp rise in the number of 'mistaken identity' cases. Where we used to get one or two calls per month from police to verify whether a motorist they have stopped is insured for this reason, it's now 20 or more per week.

"I see this as encouraging because it also means that police are becoming increasingly successful at catching genuine uninsured drivers as well as people who've made simple mistakes."

He points out that drivers are usually sent on their way after confirming they're covered. But in extreme cases cars have been confiscated until a correct insurance document can be provided along with a statement confirming the car was insured at the time.

"If you're applying for your car insurance online, it's easy to confuse letters and numbers such as 0 and O. It's also surprisingly common for drivers to transpose digits. If you are applying for cover by telephone, similarly-sounding letters (such as N and M) can also be confused. Insurance staff can make mistakes too."

Douglas points out insurers send every customer a summary of cover, which includes all the information it has about a customer and his or her car, as well as the insurance certificate itself.

"It is really important to check that this information is correct – especially the registration number. The data is used to update the national Motor Insurance Database, which is used by the police anpr equipment to check whether your vehicle is covered.

He says: "Simple errors can result in a lot of wasted time and inconvenience for you, the police and your insurer – quite apart from the risk of temporarily having your car confiscated."

AA advice to avoid mistakes

  • If you are applying online, check and double-check that your registration number is correct, especially 0 and O, and letters or numbers that are next to each other on the keyboard
  • Most online applications automatically populate the car make and model from the registration number you put in. If details of a different car appear, or the system says it can't identify your car, you could well have made a registration number mistake
  • If applying by telephone re-confirm the registration by saying 'zero' for the numeral and 'oh' for the letter. Insurance staff should also use the phonetic alphabet to avoid mistakes – such as N-November and M-Mike
  • When your documents arrive, check them immediately and tell your insurer if there are mistakes
  • If you subsequently notice your registration number is wrong, ask your insurer to correct it – they should do this without charge
  • If you are stopped by police and it becomes clear your registration number is incorrect, ask the officer to contact your insurer to confirm that you are covered

You can check that your car is on the Motor Insurance Database by going to and putting in the registration number. It will also identify the make and model of the car insured. If it is not on the database or your car is not the one described, call your insurer immediately.

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18 February 2010