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DfT set to make keeping an uninsured vehicle a criminal offence

Current law means it's illegal to drive on road without cover, but AA president says new rules will miss target...

The Department for Transport is set to make it a criminal offence to keep a car without it being insured, irrespective of whether or not it is being driven, but the head of the motoring organisation AA warns that the proposed law will miss the intended target.

Under current legislation, only cars being driven on the road need to be insured, but with uninsured and untraced drivers estimated to be responsible for 160 fatalities and 23,000 injuries every year, adding an average of £30 to the premiums of those who do insure their cars, the DfT is determined to widen the net.

Commenting on the planned measures, Road Safety Minister Mike Penning said: "Uninsured drivers push up premiums for other motorists and often drive with no regard for other road users, so it is vital that we do everything we can to keep them off the roads.

“More than 400 uninsured vehicles are already being seized by the police every day but it is simply not possible to catch every uninsured driver in this way. That is why we are bringing in these new powers which will help us to take targeted action while freeing up police time to deal with the hard core of offenders.”

No specific timeframe has been established yet for when the new rules, which will cover England, Wales and Scotland but not Northern Ireland, will come into force, and vehicle owners currently in possession of a Statutory Off Road Notification, which allows them to keep an uninsured car, will not be required to take out a policy.

Ashton West, Chief Executive at the Motor Insurers’ Bureau, which administers claims resulting from accidents where one of the parties is uninsured or cannot be traced, said:

“Today’s news marks a significant step forward in the fight against uninsured driving. This means that as enforcement can take place for both keeping and driving a vehicle without insurance there will be no place for illegal motorists to hide.

“Continuous Insurance Enforcement will complement and run alongside existing police roadside enforcement, which has already reduced uninsured driving by 20%.”

Under the new rules, the DVLA will work alongside the MIB to identify uninsured vehicles, with motorists being sent a letter to tell them that their vehicle appears to be uninsured and warning of the potential consequences should they fail to take action, including a £100 fine for not insuring the vehicle and, if it remains uninsured, irrespective of whether the fine is paid, the prospect of it being seized and destroyed.

AA president Edmund King claimed that while the new rules would help snare "chancers" – those people who leave it a while after their insurance expires before renewing it – it would miss many of those who fail to insure their vehicles.

"The problem is those people, the motoring underclass, who haven't got the car registered in their name, have no insurance, no MoT," he told the BBC.

"It won't hit those people so the police will have to continue with automatic number plate recognition and physically pull those people over on the road and take action."

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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bikeandy61 | 13 years ago

Well having been out of work for 14 months my car was off the road, covered by a SORN and undriven for 12 months. I've just scrapped it. Had this law been in place I would have had no option but to scrap it 12 months ago. This would have meant that (as now) I would have been limited in my job searches to areas/jobs where I could get to them by public transport.

And what a load of crap anyway. This will have no effect on the sort of people who are happy to drive a car with no MOT/Tax & Insurance. The highest risk of being caught is to drive and risk an accident or being pulled up for a speeding or other driving offence. The chances of actually being caught with a car off road must be close to zero. More Government spin that will only hurt the honest and do nothing to deter the criminal.

rokapotamus | 13 years ago

What about the poor person who wants to put their car off the road for a month or two because they can't afford to insure their vehicle.
This has happened to me in the past. The car sat happily untill it was insured and i could drive it again.
Yet again, it looks like there is a penalty being placed on those who only have a low income.

adeclay (not verified) replied to rokapotamus | 13 years ago

The devil is in the detail...

vehicle owners currently in possession of a Statutory Off Road Notification, which allows them to keep an uninsured car, will not be required to take out a policy.

Ian Walker | 13 years ago

I wonder about insurance tied to individuals rather than vehicles. For example, my motorcycle insurance covers me to ride any bike. So at the moment I could buy another bike and wouldn't need a new insurance policy to cover it. Although insurance would certainly be in place, the bike would be 'uninsured' in the terms of this proposal (this would also put a wrinkle in adscrim's interesting suggestion).

I guess a system could be implemented where I could specifically name the vehicle on my current policy. However, I know the insurance company would extract a juicy fee for this service (they charge £25 for any little change to paperwork).

So, in sum, I suspect this proposal will do little to combat uninsured driving and a lot to make more money for insurance companies. Plus ca change, etc.

adscrim | 13 years ago

In a more ideal world, there would be a system in place where car registration details are taken as a the vehilce approached a fuel pump. Fuel would then only be delivered if the vehicle was road legal. Obviously, this would lead to other problems such as 'ghosting' and people syphoning fuel from an other car, but I think it would be better than the above. Expensive though - maybe the oil companies cold pay for it through the VAT recharge the receive for oil extraction!

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