Police tighten net on car insurance crooks

Uninsured driving is a major headache. First things first, let’s make the position crystal clear: you can’t drive without insurance. Full stop. No ifs, no buts. If your car isn’t going to be driven, you don’t need insurance provided you have a Statutory Off Road Notice (SORN) from the DVLA.
Image 1 - police stop

SORN point

Off-road means just that. Permanently off-road, or at least until you re-apply for a tax disc and terminate the SORN. Just laying up your car for six months and letting the insurance lapse doesn’t count. No SORN means insurance must be in place. So, having no insurance is illegal. Drivers without insurance face having their car seized and: -       £300 fixed penalty -       £150 collection charge -       £20 per day storage -       6 points on the licence -       no vehicle is released until proof of insurance is produced. And guess what, getting clobbered for not having insurance will almost certainly lead to… an increase in your car insurance premiums.

Touching base

So how is uninsured driving policed. The Motor Insurance Bureau manages the Motor Insurance Database, which contains details of all insured vehicles in the UK. The boys in blue are among those who can access it. One way they do this is by calling a dedicated helpline from the roadside to check the insurance status of a particular vehicle. If the vehicle isn’t on the database, they know they’ve got a live one. Nearly 2,500 uninsured vehicles are seized by the police each week, so the system clearly works. But it’s going to work even harder from September when the opening hours of the helpline are extended from 8am-9pm Monday to Friday and 9am-5pm on Saturdays to 7am-2am Sunday to Thursday, and between 7am-3am, Friday and Saturday.

Playing the system

Ashton West, boss of the MIB, explained the thinking behind the change: “There’s a phrase we’ve heard the police use on a number of occasions: ‘When the MIB Police Helpline closes, criminals are just coming out to play.’ “There’s clearly a link between people who commit crime and who do not have insurance, which is why we’re extending our helpline's operational hours to support the police in stopping uninsured vehicles at night and into the early hours of the morning, when they very often discover other criminal offences.”

Pilot wails

The decision to extend the service hours is a result of a successful pilot carried out in October 2013, when the helpline was available 24/7 for a four-week period. The pilot demonstrated the appetite of police officers to contact the helpine during antisocial hours to establish whether or not valid insurance was in place. It brought in over 3,800 calls to the helpline which resulted in over 850 vehicles being seized for no insurance, all during a period which would normally be out of hours.

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