The fixed penalty for driving without insurance has changed today (6 August), rising from £200 to £300 with no change to the six penalty points awarded.
But, in a survey of almost 20,000 AA members, 81% said this fine is ‘not tough enough’, while more than two-thirds (71%) believe that six penalty points is also insufficient.
The findings suggest that drivers are angry at what appear to be ‘light touch’ penalties for the drivers of the one out of every 25 vehicles estimated to be without insurance. Uninsured drivers kill 116 and injure 23,000 people every year (source: BRAKE).
AA Insurance director Simon Douglas said that while the increase in the fixed penalty is welcome, it will do nothing to deter motorists who habitually drive without cover.
Douglas said: “These are typically young men in cars that may have no MoT or tax, while offenders often have no driving licence or are already disqualified.”
Last year, 11,000 convicted uninsured drivers had previously been disqualified (source: Auto Express).
Serious or repeat offenders are likely to be sent to court – or they may elect to do so. The maximum fine available is £5,000, but because this is means-tested, the average imposed is only £299, less than the new fixed penalty.
Last year more than half (53%) of court fines for uninsured driving were under £200, which is six times less than the typical £1,211 cost of car insurance for a motorist aged 17-22 with no convictions and a clean licence (source: AA British Insurance Premium Index).
The AA survey respondents also showed robust views about how courts deal with uninsured drivers:
only a third (35%) agreed that fines should be means-tested;
45% felt that fines ‘make no difference’; a third (32%) disagreed; and
just over half (54%) believed that offenders should face a prison sentence; 26% disagreed.
The research shows significant differences between gender and age groups. Men appear to be less forgiving than women: for example, 21% of women felt the new £300 penalty is about right compared with only 14% of men. Similarly, 58% of men believed offenders should face a prison sentence compared with 48% of women.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, young drivers are more likely to think that the new penalty is too tough (5% aged 18-24 and 4% aged 25-34) compared with 2% of all age groups. Similarly, only 63% of young drivers thought the penalty not tough enough compared with 81% overall: however, it’s nevertheless notable that the majority of young drivers feel the penalty should be tougher.
Douglas said that the findings support the AA’s views.
“For the habitual offender who is used to the inside of a courtroom, the present fines are hardly a disincentive. Many go on to obtain another cheap banger for cash, no questions asked, and continue offending.”
Although the number of uninsured drivers has fallen thanks to the introduction of Continuous Insurance Enforcement in 2011, the chances of being hit by an uninsured driver in Britain are still greater than almost anywhere else in Europe (source: Motor Insurers’ Bureau).
The AA is calling on the government to ‘think again’ about how to tackle the blight of uninsured driving.
Douglas said: “Uninsured drivers cost this country at least £380m every year and add about £33 to the cost of every car insurance policy, quite apart from emergency services and court costs. Yet although the penalties are already severe, the current regime is clearly not a deterrent.”
Douglas suggested that if uninsured drivers know they will quickly be identified and stopped, it will act as a disincentive and says that increasing automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) coverage could play a large part in doing that.
“Not only equipping more police cars with this very effective technology, but ANPR equipment at garages and other fixed points too should be used to identify uninsured drivers.
“We need a tough, no-compromise approach to uninsured drivers.”
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