Police get tough on uninsured drivers

From today, police forces across the country can use automatic number plate recognition cameras to spot and ultimately seize and destroy cars being driven without insurance.

The cameras are linked to a database which contains details of all vehicles registered in the UK which are believed to be uninsured.

Mr Darling was in Birmingham to see West Midlands Police in action as they began the crackdown.

He said: "Today we are sending out a very clear message to those who drive without insurance - there is now no place to hide.

"The new powers to link up cameras and the insurance database will make it far easier for police to tell if passing cars are uninsured and take action against the driver."

Mr Darling went on: "On top of these powers, we are creating a new offence of keeping a vehicle without insurance. This will be enforced through a new database of insurance details which means that uninsured drivers don't even need to be on the road to be caught.

"It is estimated that every law-abiding motorist pays an extra £30 a year because of uninsured drivers. Drivers are rightly fed up with those who flout the law and we are determined to rid the roads of this small hardcore of anti-social drivers."

Meredydd Hughes, head of roads policing at the Association of Chief Police Officers and Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, said: "The police service and the Government are constantly striving to make our roads as safe as possible for all road users.

"Evidence indicates that up to 10% of vehicles on our roads are being used illegally and many of these will be people who drive with no insurance.

"We know that people who don't insure their vehicles, or indeed drive with no licence or test certificate, are more likely to be involved in other criminal activity, and in collisions - collisions in which people may be killed or seriously injured.

"The operation that we are carrying out today will root out those motorists who do not comply with the law by insuring their vehicles."

The Motor Insurers' Bureau (MIB) has provided police in Greater Manchester, Merseyside, the West Midlands and West Yorkshire with details of potentially uninsured vehicles from the Motor Industry Database in the crackdown which is known as Operation Liability.

This data, together with other police and DVLA intelligence, is being used alongside new automatic number plate recognition cameras, offering the ability for officers to be up to 10 times more effective than before.

MIB's chief executive Ashton West said: "Operation Liability sees the plans we've been working on for two years become reality.

"As the tactics employed by Operation Liability are adopted by police forces across the country, we expect to see a significant crackdown on uninsured drivers, which will benefit the honest motorists and general public who ultimately share the burden of the financial and safety issues generated by these criminals."

Today's crackdown follows yesterday's announcement by Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer of a major expansion of wheel clamping to deal with minor motoring offences.

Under the plans, motorists could find their vehicles immobilised or impounded rather than being taken to court.

The proposal is part of a radical scheme to remove millions of minor crimes from the court system to ease the burden on magistrates.