An increase in the fixed penalty for driving without insurance from £200 to £300 will not deter repeat offenders, AA Insurance director Simon Douglas has warned.
The increase in the fixed penalty fine for people convicted of driving without insurance is one of the changes to fixed penalties that come into force next month.
Douglas welcomed the increase, stressing that it would catch unintentional offenders who have “perhaps neglected to renew their cover promptly” or “find themselves accidentally uninsured, perhaps after a long period overseas or in hospital”.
“But many uninsured drivers are young men who may already have several motoring offences to their name,” he said. “The cars they drive may have no MOT; or tax and offenders often have no driving licence or have already been banned.
Last year, there were 11,000 convictions of uninsured drivers who had previously been disqualified and, while the maximum fine was £5,000, the average penalty imposed was £299 – less than the new fixed penalty.
Fines of £200 or less were imposed in 53% of convictions. This was nine times less than the typical £1,750 cost of car insurance for a motorist aged 17-22 with no convictions and a clean licence, Douglas pointed out.
“For the habitual offender who is used to the inside of a courtroom, this is hardly a disincentive, when they can easily obtain another cheap banger for cash, no questions asked, and continue offending,” he said.
One in 25 motorists on Britain’s roads is believed to be driving without insurance and, every year, uninsured drivers kill 160 and injure 23,000 people, Douglas said.
“Although the number of uninsured drivers is falling thanks to the introduction of continuous insurance enforcement in 2011, the chances of being hit by an uninsured driver in Britain are still higher than almost anywhere else in Europe,” he said.
“The likelihood of a successful recovery of damages from an uninsured driver is extremely low. They are often unemployed or on very low incomes – hence the low average fine meted out by the courts – and frequently associated with other criminal activities.
The AA is calling on the government to ‘think again’ about how to tackle the blight of uninsured driving.
“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 significant, the current regime is clearly not a deterrent,” said Douglas.
“Large fines for those who can’t pay them isn’t effective. But if uninsured drivers know they’ll quickly be caught then that will act as a big disincentive. Clearly more police patrols equipped with automatic number plate recognition technology, which helps identify cars with no insurance, MOT or tax, will help.
“We need a tough, no-compromise approach to uninsured drivers, which should include community service. For extreme offenders, electronic tagging or as a last resort, custodial sentences should be considered too.”
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