Hard road for drunk drivers Insurers have toughened the terms for motorists convicted of driving while over the legal limit

Eagle Star will only offer third party, fire and theft cover to those c onvicted of being more than one drink over the limit
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INSURERS are becoming far harsher on people who have drink-drive convictions.

Earlier this month, in anticipation of the usual spate of drinking and driving over the Christmas season, Preferred Direct, a direct insurer, decided to stop insuring motorists with any drink-drive convictions in the last seven years.

Preferred Direct will also refuse to reinsure any current policyholders who get a drink-drive conviction.

Eagle Star, too, is considering taking a tougher line on those convicted of drinking and driving.

At present, it will not insure anybody who has had a drink- drive conviction in the last five years if they were previously insured with another company.

For existing policyholders, it operates a stepped loading system that depends on the amount the motorist is over the limit.

The legal limits are 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath, or 80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood. If you are convicted with up to 44mg in your breath or 100mg in your blood - for most people, the equivalent of being one drink over the limit, Eagle Star will add 50 per cent on to premiums.

Anyone over that would get a loading of 100 per cent and would be limited to third party, fire and theft cover.

AA Insurance Services, the UK's biggest motor insurance broker, said that different motor insurers took very different attitudes to drinking and driving.

The degree of insurance loading would depend on the length of time from the conviction, the age of the driver, the amount the driver was over the limit, and whether or not there was another car involved.

As well as loading the premiums, insurers will often only allow motorists a third party, fire and theft policy and will increase the policy excesses. Loadings can vary from 50 per cent to 300 per cent.

A spokeswomen for AA Insurance Services said: "Anyone who has a drink-drive conviction must disclose it for 11 years for insurance purposes.''

However, many insurers will not load premiums if the drink- drive conviction is more than five years old.

The AA gave an example of a 40-year-old male executive driving a BMW 518i and living in Guildford, with a conviction for drinking and driving more than five years ago. He would pay an unloaded annual premium of £448.20. The lowest premium for a four-year-old conviction would be £542, again without any extra loading.

However, if the BMW driver had a conviction in the last three years, he would suffer from a 50 per cent extra loading, and his premium would rise to £685.

Norwich Union, the UK's biggest private motor insurer, will reinsure anybody who was insured with it before the conviction, but the company operates the same two-tier system as Eagle Star.

Anyone who is convicted of the equivalent of being one drink over the limit will get 75 points added to their score for the purpose of underwriting.

This could mean a premium increase of between 80 and 150 per cent, depending on the age of the driver and his or her previous driving record. Anybody convicted of having higher levels of alcohol in the blood could face being limited to third party, fire and theft cover, and a much higher premium.

Eagle Star surveyed more than 500 motorists and found that the majority of them were ignorant of what the legal alcohol limits were.

Fifty five per cent of those who claimed to know the legal limit stated incorrectly that the amount of alcohol contained in a pint of lager was the same as in one brandy.

A third of those questioned believed that an average man drinking two pints of lager would remain under the limit - this in fact would push most men over the limit.