The Department for Transport is set to make it a criminal offence to keep a car without it being insured, irrespective of whether or not it is being driven, but the head of the motoring organisation AA warns that the proposed law will miss the intended target.
Under current legislation, only cars being driven on the road need to be insured, but with uninsured and untraced drivers estimated to be responsible for 160 fatalities and 23,000 injuries every year, adding an average of £30 to the premiums of those who do insure their cars, the DfT is determined to widen the net.
Commenting on the planned measures, Road Safety Minister Mike Penning said: "Uninsured drivers push up premiums for other motorists and often drive with no regard for other road users, so it is vital that we do everything we can to keep them off the roads.
“More than 400 uninsured vehicles are already being seized by the police every day but it is simply not possible to catch every uninsured driver in this way. That is why we are bringing in these new powers which will help us to take targeted action while freeing up police time to deal with the hard core of offenders.”
No specific timeframe has been established yet for when the new rules, which will cover England, Wales and Scotland but not Northern Ireland, will come into force, and vehicle owners currently in possession of a Statutory Off Road Notification, which allows them to keep an uninsured car, will not be required to take out a policy.
Ashton West, Chief Executive at the Motor Insurers’ Bureau, which administers claims resulting from accidents where one of the parties is uninsured or cannot be traced, said:
“Today’s news marks a significant step forward in the fight against uninsured driving. This means that as enforcement can take place for both keeping and driving a vehicle without insurance there will be no place for illegal motorists to hide.
“Continuous Insurance Enforcement will complement and run alongside existing police roadside enforcement, which has already reduced uninsured driving by 20%.”
Under the new rules, the DVLA will work alongside the MIB to identify uninsured vehicles, with motorists being sent a letter to tell them that their vehicle appears to be uninsured and warning of the potential consequences should they fail to take action, including a £100 fine for not insuring the vehicle and, if it remains uninsured, irrespective of whether the fine is paid, the prospect of it being seized and destroyed.
AA president Edmund King claimed that while the new rules would help snare "chancers" – those people who leave it a while after their insurance expires before renewing it – it would miss many of those who fail to insure their vehicles.
"The problem is those people, the motoring underclass, who haven't got the car registered in their name, have no insurance, no MoT," he told the BBC.
"It won't hit those people so the police will have to continue with automatic number plate recognition and physically pull those people over on the road and take action."
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.