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What about all those uninsured drivers?

Every year, there are more stories about the number of people who drive without insurance. What's the real story and why does it matter?

Let's start off way back in 2003. The DOT estimated there were slightly more than 31 millions vehicles on the road and about 4 million more vehicles unregistered or off the road. But of those 35 million, more than 5% did not have a valid vehicle excise licence (VEL). The number of licensed vehicles has increased since then. The Road Traffic Act 1988 makes Third Party cover compulsory, unlike some other EU countries where a tax on petrol prices funds minimum insurance cover for all. The current estimates are that about the same percentage lacking VEL also fail to insure. This means there are slightly more than 2 million uninsured vehicles altogether and, at any one time, about 1 million uninsured motorists on the road. This is not a crime committed by the poor. Even England footballers drive their sports cars at high speed on motorways without insurance. One of the reasons is that the fines are too low to be a deterrent. The average fine is £185.


UK Uninsured Map
Greater Manchester9.7%Durham4.2%
West Yorkshire7.2%Gwent4.1%
West Midlands6.8%Kent3.7%
South Yorkshire5.5%Surrey3.5%
South Wales4.6%Leicestershire3.4%

Remember that, if you're injured or property is damaged by an uninsured driver, you can claim from the Motor Insurers' Bureau (MIB) subject to an uninsured excess. But you have to be able to prove the other driver was uninsured. If you're the victim of a hit and run, you may have no evidence of lack of insurance, so you have to make a separate claim under the Untraced Driver Agreement. The MIB guarantee fund is maintained by a levy on all UK insurance companies. The cost of this levy is passed on to all policyholders. The current estimate is that the premiums have increased by about £30 to cover the cost of the levy. What makes this burden more unfair is that the statistics show uninsured drivers have more accidents. Uninsured cars are known to have been involved in accidents causing more than 150 deaths and 23,000 injuries in each of the last five years. Such drivers are not protecting a no claims discount and don't care whether claims are made against them. Whatever happens, they have no intention of paying.

So, to help deal with the problem (and potentially bring down the cost of premiums by £30 for honest drivers), Parliament is proposing a new offence of keeping a car while uninsured. The police will match the VEL database against the insurance database. If a car shows up, the owner will be warned to take out insurance. If the owner fails to comply, this will be an offence even though the car never goes out on a public road. The fine will be supplemented by the power to seize the uninsured car and send it to the crusher. It will be interesting to see whether this proposal makes it into law and, if it does, whether it will work as intended.

» read more about Uninsured Motorists in the UK