Melanie Bien: Drive harder for a level insurance playing field

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The Independent Online

With the Olympics under way and the Premiership kicking off this weekend, there is plenty to keep the armchair sports fan occupied.

With the Olympics under way and the Premiership kicking off this weekend, there is plenty to keep the armchair sports fan occupied.

But for those who prefer to participate rather than just spectate, it's worth considering how you'd cope if you injured yourself so badly that you couldn't work.

While Premiership footballers such as Wayne Rooney and Thierry Henry sit out this afternoon's meeting between Everton and Arsenal through injury, at least their disappointment at not being able to play won't be aggravated by a cut in their wage packets. That's not the case on Hackney Marshes. If amateur footballers suffer a serious injury, they could be off work for months, causing real financial hardship.

One way of avoiding this is to take out specific insurance for sporting injuries. Pinnacle Insurance is just one of a number of firms that pays out compensation to cover physiotherapy, dental costs and hospitalisation. Loss of earnings can also be covered.

Such insurance may seem a luxury when there are so many other demands on our wallets and other policies might seem more pressing, such as home contents insurance (see page 20). But while the cost will put some people off playing the field on protection, there is no excuse for cutting corners where cover is compulsory. I'm not referring here to buildings insurance - which isn't mandatory, although mortgage lenders like to insist on it - but to motor insurance.

If you don't have third-party cover at least, you are breaking the law by driving a car. Yet some one million British people do so, sometimes because they've forgotten to renew their policy and sometimes, perhaps, because they don't realise they are breaking the law. The vast majority, though, are uninsured because insurance is expensive and they regard themselves as careful drivers who have no need of it, as they aren't going to have an accident.

Who hasn't felt at least a flicker of irritation when renewing their car insurance and wondering what is the point when they never have an accident or make a claim? It's the same with travel insurance, which seems like a waste of money every time I return from an overseas trip in one piece with all my luggage. But if I didn't take it out, I might well spend my time fretting about what would happen if disaster struck.

Insurance buys peace of mind, if nothing else. For example, many drivers opt for fully comprehensive cover, even though this isn't a legal requirement, because they know they are covered for all eventualities.

Yet many never make a claim, even when they have had a prang, as they are anxious to protect their no-claims bonus. You may question what the point is of taking out insurance if you're never going to ask for compensation, but you can get a hefty discount on your premiums: up to 60 per cent if you don't claim for six years. Then if you have the misfortune to be involved in a serious accident where the damage runs into hundreds of pounds, that's when you make a claim.

However, as we report on the back page, the biggest problem facing drivers with cover is the number of drivers without it. That's not only because these people add an extra £30 a year to the premiums of honest motorists but because they are more prone to ignoring the letter of the law in other areas. Research shows that uninsured motorists are more likely to drive dangerously and to have been convicted of drink-driving.

But this is what makes me wonder whether the Government's planned crackdown on uninsured drivers goes far enough. There seems too much emphasis on fining motorists who are normally insured but have let their cover lapse. The real problem is the dangerous driver who has no regard for the law, and thinks nothing of having a drink or several before slipping behind the wheel of his £400 banger.

This sort of person isn't going to go out and buy cover because an educational advertising campaign encourages them to. Until the penalty for non-compliance becomes severe, with heavy fines and custodial sentences for persistent offenders, it will be hard to make certain people buy motor insurance.

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