Hazard alert for motorists with no cover

A crackdown is coming but insured drivers can also take their own measures to bring down premiums, writes Melanie Bien

Although the cost of motor insurance can be high, the penalties for breaking the law and not taking out cover are about to become much stiffer.

Although the cost of motor insurance can be high, the penalties for breaking the law and not taking out cover are about to become much stiffer.

Last week Professor David Greenaway of the University of Nottingham presented his report to the Transport Secretary on how to crack down on un-insured motoring. Among his proposals is a recommendation that police are given the power to seize and, where appropriate, destroy vehicles driven without cover. There are also plans to link the DVLA's Vehicle Register and motor insurance databases, so police know which vehicles are uninsured.

Under Professor Greenaway's proposals, the minimum fine for uninsured driving will also be increased - although the exact amount has yet to be specified - to deter would-be evaders. Fixed penalties will be introduced for people who ignore reminders from insurers that their cover has expired.

Such changes are overdue, given that when a case comes to court, the fines usually amount to far less than the premiums would have been. What's more, an uninsured driver's chance of being caught and convicted is just 16 per cent annually, says the RAC Foundation.

"A £200 fine is no deterrent to someone who can save £300 to £500 a year and who will get away with that for up to six years," says John Lewis, director general of the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association. "A swingeing fine, community service or, in more extreme cases, a custodial sentence are the only options that will be effective."

All motorists are legally obliged to have third-party insurance but one in 20 - about one million people - drive without cover in the UK. A crackdown can't come soon enough: research from the Association of British Insurers reveals that motorists without cover are three times more likely to have been convicted of driving without due care and attention. They are also 10 times more likely to have been convicted of drink-driving.

These people are a scourge for law-abiding motorists who fork out hundreds of pounds each year for cover. Being hit by an uninsured driver is extremely inconvenient and expensive. If you have fully comprehensive cover, you will have to claim on your own policy to repair the damage, even though it's not your fault. You'll also have to pay an excess of a couple of hundred pounds when you make a claim.

And if you have a no-claims bonus, you will lose it. Typically, an NCB starts at around 15 per cent after a year, climbing to 60 per cent after six or more claim-free years. If you lose your NCB, it could result in a big hike in your insurance premiums the following year.

Even if you aren't hit by an uninsured driver, you still lose out as these people add an average of £30 to the annual premium of an insured motorist.

If you have only third-party cover, you can't claim on your policy; the only option is to apply to the Motor Insurers' Bureau (MIB), which compensates drivers involved in collisions with uninsured motorists. But Emma Holyer at insurer Direct Line points out that you will have to pay an excess of £300. And she adds: "Most people end up paying for the damage to be fixed themselves, make a claim and then wait up to two years to get their money."

Direct Line has just changed its rules so that customers with fully comprehensive cover will no longer lose out if they have to claim after being hit by an uninsured driver. They will keep their NCB and not be liable for any excess, either. Direct Line estimates that this will save motorists £400 per incident.

Direct Line policyholders who have only third-party cover won't be affected by this change, though, as they will be covered by the MIB.

If your motor policy is with Sainsbury's Bank, your NCB won't be affected by non-fault claims where the other driver is identified but not covered.

With claims from uninsured driving costing the industry £400m, and law-abiding motorists facing higher premiums, it's vital to scour the market when your policy is up for renewal. The difference between the cheapest and most expensive insurance providers is 52 per cent or £209 a year, reports the financial services research firm Consumer Intelligence.

It's also vital that you don't wait for the Government to take action on uninsured drivers, which should hopefully result in lower premiums. "These initiatives can often take time to implement; we'd urge drivers to act now to protect themselves," says Richard Mason, director of the price-comparison website insuresupermarket.com. "You can't do much about being hit by an uninsured driver but you can take measures to ensure you don't end up bearing the brunt."

The easiest way of doing this is to protect your no-claims bonus, advises Mr Mason. For an added premium, your NCB won't be affected even if you make two claims in a three-year period. Most insurers insist you have at least four years in NCBs to qualify for this, and that you haven't made a "fault" claim, for example for theft, in the previous 12 months.

Mr Mason estimates that protecting your NCB will increase your premiums by 6 per cent. In comparison, the cost of making a claim on your policy can add as much as 23 per cent to your premiums.

Young drivers often find it particularly hard to get affordable insurance. Professor Greenaway recommends that insurers work to make third-party cover more accessible for them, as well as increasing awareness that they are legally obliged to have insurance.

It's all too tempting for young drivers to be added to their parents' policy, as this is usually cheaper than buying standalone cover. But if they delay buying their own policy, they will be missing out in the long term.

Mr Mason adds: "By taking advantage of bonus accelerator offers - or perhaps adding a parent to their policy and downgrading to third-party insurance where possible - younger drivers will find it easier and more affordable to establish a good driving record, which they can then protect."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Foreign Exchange Dealer - OTE £40,000+

    £16000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Foreign Exchange Dealer is re...

    SThree: Experienced Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40/45k + INCENTIVES + BENEFITS: SThree: The su...

    Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

    £14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones