AA Insurance : new uninsured driver fines not enough

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    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, perhaps 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 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.”

    Mr Douglas points out that 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.”

    He adds that 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, Mr. Douglas says.

    “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 and adds 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.”