New uninsured driver fines are not enough
Among the motoring offence reforms being introduced by the government next month is an increase in the fixed penalty for driving without insurance, from £200 to £300.
However, Simon Douglas, director of AA Insurance, says that while this increase is welcome, it will do little to deter those who habitually drive without cover.
It will certainly catch those who have perhaps neglected to renew their cover promptly or find themselves accidentally uninsured after a long period overseas or in hospital.
But many uninsured drivers are young men who may already have several motoring offences to their name.
The cars they drive may have no MoT; or tax and offenders often have no driving licence or have already been banned. In fact last year, 11,000 convicted uninsured drivers had previously been disqualified.*
Offenders may be sent to court because of the seriousness of their offence or elect to do so. Although the maximum fine available is £5,000, this has never been imposed.
It is means tested which means that the average fine is £299, just under the new £300 fixed penalty. Last year more than half (53%) of court fines for uninsured driving were £200 or less.*
This is nine times less than the typical £1,750** cost of car insurance for a young motorist with no convictions and a clean licence, aged 17-22.
For the habitual offender who is used to the inside of a courtroom this is hardly a disincentive, when they can easily obtain another cheap banger for cash, no questions asked, and continue offending
Simon Douglas, director of AA Insurance
Simon Douglas, director of AA Insurance said: “For the habitual offender who is used to the inside of a courtroom this is hardly a disincentive, when they can easily obtain another cheap banger for cash, no questions asked, and continue offending.
"One out of every 25 motorists on Britain’s roads is believed to be driving without insurance and that every year, uninsured drivers kill 160 and inflict injury on 23,000 innocent people.***
“Although the number of uninsured drivers is falling thanks to the introduction of Continuous Insurance Enforcement in 2011, the chances of being hit by an uninsured driver in Britain are still higher than almost anywhere else in Europe****.
“The likelihood of a successful recovery of damages from an uninsured driver is extremely low. They are often unemployed or on very low incomes – hence the low average fine meted out by the courts – and frequently associated with other criminal activities."
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 adding 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.
Large fines for those who can’t pay them isn’t effective. But if uninsured drivers know they’ll quickly be caught then that will act as a big disincentive. Clearly more police patrols equipped with automatic number plate recognition technology, which helps identify cars with no insurance, MoT or tax, will help.
We need a tough, no-compromise approach to uninsured drivers which should include community service. For extreme offenders, electronic tagging or as a last resort, custodial sentences should be considered too.
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 MIB, 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.
(19 June 2013)
* Freedom of Information data obtained by Auto Express
** According to the Shoparound summary of the AA British Insurance Premium Index the average quoted premium for a driver aged 17-22 is £1,749.59
*** Source: BRAKE
**** 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: MIB).