New uninsured driver fines

Average court fine can be less than £300

New uninsured driver fines

Among the new driving penalties that came into force on 16 August 2013 is an increase in the fixed penalty for driving without insurance, from £200 to £300, with no change to the six penalty points awarded.

However, the means-tested penalties issued to offenders who are referred to court (or elect to be tried) are, on average, less than the fixed penalty, while many of those convicted have already been disqualified.

Uninsured drivers – AA members have their say

  • Four out of five say uninsured driving penalties 'not tough enough'
  • Two-thirds advocate electronic tagging of offenders

Nearly 20,000 AA members who were polled on this subject believe that the penalty increase will make no difference to the number of uninsured drivers – estimated to be around 1 in 25 – on Britain's roads, and that much more robust penalties should be put in place.1 Eighty-one per cent of the respondents said that the penalty increase is 'not tough enough', while 71% believe that six penalty points is also insufficient. Uninsured drivers kill 116 and injure 23,000 people every year.2

Simon Douglas, director of AA Insurance, says that while this increase is welcome, it will do nothing to deter the motoring underclass who habitually drive without cover.

"These are typically young men in cars that may have no MoT or tax, while offenders often have no driving licence or are already disqualified."

Last year, 11,000 convicted uninsured drivers had previously been disqualified.3

Serious or repeat offenders are likely to be sent to court – or they may elect to do so, where the maximum fine available is £5,000. But because the fine is means-tested the average imposed is only £299, less than the new fixed penalty.

Last year more than half (53%) of court fines for uninsured driving were under £200, which is six times less than the typical £1,211 cost of car insurance for a motorist aged 17–22, with no convictions and a clean licence.4

The 19,949 respondents to the survey also showed robust views about how courts deal with uninsured drivers.

  • Only a third (35%) agreed (strongly agreed or somewhat agreed) that fines should be means-tested
  • 45% felt that fines 'make no difference' – a third (32%) disagreed
  • Just over half (54%) believed that offenders should face a prison sentence – 26% disagreed.
  • Two-thirds (63%) said that electronic tagging should be used to prevent re-offending
  • Three-quarters (75%) say that Community Payback (formerly Community Service) orders should be imposed
  • Most (81%) agree that an offender's car should always be confiscated (which already happens in the majority of cases)

The research shows significant differences between gender and age groups: men appear to be less forgiving than women. For example, 21% of women felt the new £300 penalty is about right, compared with only 14% of men. 84% of men thought the penalty not tough enough, compared with 77% of women.

Similarly, 58% of men believed offenders should face a prison sentence, compared with 48% of women.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, young drivers are more likely to think that the new penalty is too tough (5% aged 18–24 and 4% aged 25–34) compared with 2% of all age groups. Only 63% of young drivers thought the penalty not tough enough, compared with 81% overall. Nevertheless, the majority of young drivers felt the penalty should be tougher.


For the habitual offender who is used to the inside of a courtroom the present fines are hardly a disincentive.

Simon Douglas, director of AA Insurance

AA comment

Mr Douglas says that the survey findings support the AA's views.

"For the habitual offender who is used to the inside of a courtroom the present fines are hardly a disincentive. Many go on to obtain another cheap banger for cash, no questions asked, and continue offending."

Although the number of uninsured drivers has fallen due to the introduction of Continuous Insurance Enforcement in 2011, the chances of being hit by an uninsured driver in Britain are still greater than almost anywhere else in Europe,5 Mr Douglas says.

The AA is calling on the government to 'think again' about how to tackle the blight of uninsured driving.

"Uninsured drivers cost this country at least £380 million every year and add about £33 to the cost of every car insurance policy, quite apart from emergency services and court costs. Yet although the penalties are already severe, the current regime is clearly not a deterrent."

Mr Douglas believes that there is little point in imposing large fines on those who can't pay them.

But he suggests that if uninsured drivers know they will quickly be identified and stopped it will act as a disincentive, and says that increasing automatic number plate recognition (anpr) coverage could play a large part in doing that.

"Not only equipping more police cars with this very effective technology, but anpr equipment at garages and other fixed points too should be used to identify uninsured drivers.

"We need a tough, no-compromise approach to uninsured drivers."


AA/Populus research – key findings1

Response to the survey question:

Do you think the increased penalty plus six penalty points is: not tough enough, about right, or too tough?

Sentiment

£300 fine

Six penalty points

Not tough enough

81%
(m 84%, f 77%)

71%
(m 73%, f 66%)

About right

16%
(m 14%, f 21%)

26%
(m 23%, f 31%)

Too tough*

2%

2%

* Young drivers were most likely to consider the penalty to be 'too tough':
5% of 18–24 year-olds; 4% of 25–34 year-olds.

 

Statements relating to court convictions of uninsured drivers

Statement

Agree

Neither agree nor disagree

Disagree

Fines should be means tested

35%
(m 37%, f 32%)

15%

50%

Fines make no difference

45%
(m 46%, f 45%)

22%

32%

Driving ban should be imposed for most serious offences

95%

2%

3%

Uninsured drivers should face a prison sentence

54%
(m 58%, f 48%)

19%

26%

Electronic tagging should be used to prevent re-offending

63%
(m 65%, f 59%)

18%

19%

Community Payback* orders should be imposed

75%
(m 74%, f 79%)

15%

10%

Compulsory education of offenders to drive home seriousness of offence

85%
(m 84%, f 88%)

9%

5%

Car should always be confiscated

81%
(m 82%, f 79%)

9%

10%


1 AA/Populus research 11–18 July 2013; 19,949 AA members responded.

2 Source: Brake.

3 Freedom of Information data obtained by Auto Express.

4 According to the Shoparound summary of the AA British Insurance Premium Index, the average quoted premium for a driver aged 17–22 is £1,210.54.

5 It is believed that at 1 in 25 the number of uninsured drivers in Great Britain is one of the highest in Europe. In Germany, for example, it is estimated to be about 1 in 500; in Sweden 1 in 1,000; in the Netherlands about 1 in 150. Source: Motor Insurers' Bureau.

Note: In the event of a non-fault collision with an uninsured driver, the victim is likely to lose their excess and no-claim bonus because there is no insurance company against which to claim. However, a claim can be made through the Motor Insurers' Bureau, which is funded by the insurance industry and compensates the victims of crashes caused by uninsured drivers. A lost no-claim discount will eventually be restored once this recovery, minus an excess, is paid but it can take many months because of the due legal processes involved. Some insurers including AA Insurance offer an 'uninsured driver promise' which ensures that an AA Insurance customer doesn't lose his or her excess or no-claim discount at all under such circumstances.

16 August 2013