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Your money: Mine's a huge premium

Insurers find it hard to forgive drink-drivers, writes Nic Cicutti
It doesn't seem to matter how many stories appear or how many television ads are screened: thousands of motorists throughout the UK will lose their licences through drink-related offences this Christmas.

Home Office statistics show that last year more than 700,000 drivers were breath-tested. About 13 per cent - some 90,000 motorists - gave positive tests or refused to take a test. In either case, the effect is the loss of a licence.

A significant proportion of drivers who test positive are stopped over the Christmas season, a time when barely a day passes without most of us being able to find yet another excuse for a drink.

Last week, insurers warned drivers that the consequence of being over the limit is not only a lost licence and a heavy fine, and possibly a prison sentence. Once the driving ban is served, drink-drivers find that the cost of their insurance cover rockets for several years.

Research by Insurance Advice, a freephone telephone service, shows that a drink-driving conviction adds at least 50 per cent to the cost of car insurance. A second conviction raises this by 200 per cent.

The firm's car insurance arm, Motor Advice, contacted 22 firms, asking them to quote for a 35-year-old man, living in Guildford, driving a Ford Mondeo with a maximum no-claims bonus. Without a protected bonus, the best premium came from Preferred Direct, a broking operation, which charged pounds 162.42. For policies with protected no-claims bonuses, Norwich Union Direct and Guardian Direct quoted between pounds 186 and pounds 190 a year. After one drink-drive conviction, 15 of the companies refused to provide a quote, with the best quote from Dial Direct - without no-claims protection - rising to pounds 280.75.

James Wootten, of Motor Advice, points out: "This is pretty good business for insurance companies since many authorities believe that a person with one drink-drive conviction is very unlikely to re-offend. In fact, their chances of drink-driving again are less than for someone who has never been convicted."

Motor Advice asked for quotes for the same driver, this time after two convictions - in 1991 and 1993 - and a three-year ban.

"By this time it became pretty difficult to find insurance at all," Mr Wootten says. "In this case, only two of the telephone direct companies were prepared to offer a policy. It also becomes expensive. All no-claims discounts are lost because the driver has not been insured for at least two years."

The best quote - of pounds 807 - came from HSBC Select, a specialist broker. Other companies who were prepared to insure this driver quoted up to pounds 535 more than this figure.

Contacts: Insurance Advice: 0500 647005. Freephone cab service, connected to local taxi company: 0800 654321.

Sober rates

No drink-drive convictions

(protected no-claims bonus)

NU Direct pounds 185.99

Preferred Direct pounds 186.65

Guardian Direct pounds 190.09

Touchline pounds 219.00

GA Direct pounds 227.52

One conviction *

(protected no-claims bonus)

Privilege pounds 291.00 (includes pounds 300 excess)

HSBC Select pounds 372.77

Premium Search pounds 373.00

Touchline pounds 377.00

AA pounds 400.30

Two convictions

HSBC Select pounds 807.00

Privilege pounds 905.00 (includes pounds 600 excess)

Auto Elite pounds 967.00

Premium Search pounds 971.00

AA pounds 1,344.80

Driver, 35, max no-claims, lives in Guildford, drives Ford Mondeo, garaged and immobilised. One conviction: in Dec 1995. Two convictions: Dec 1991 and Nov 1993

Source: Motor Advice