The statistics come from the Motor Insurers Bureau, which is launching a new campaign - ‘Stay Insured’ - to publicise this growing problem.
I have come to speak to Ashton West, who is Chief Executive of the Motor Insurers Bureau and Natalie Pinkham , a television presenter, who presents ‘You’re Nicked’ and ‘Police Interceptors’, to find out why this is such a big issue.
Q1: Now, I found these figures quite shocking, where you surprised by them?
Natalie Pinkham: I was genuinely surprised by them. I think you just assume that people who drive on the roads are insured, at least that’s your hope, because should you have the unfortunate case of crashing into somebody, you hope and pray that they are going to be insured, and I was staggered by the high numbers.
[to Ashton] But I know it wasn’t quite the same for you was it?
Ashton West: Not really no. The whole purpose for undertaking this research, was actually, to demonstrate the size of this problem, to illustrate to people just what a massive problem we have got in the UK. We have actually – ashamedly really – we have one of the worst records in Western Europe, something like 1 in 20 vehicles on UK roads are uninsured, that’s 5%. You compare that with other countries in Europe, like Scandinavian countries, Germany, its less then 1%, so we really have a lot of work to do to reduce this problem.
Q2: And it’s about 10% isn’t it for young drivers? Why is it such a problem? And why is it a problem that is growing?
AW: There are two problems really for young drivers – and it is worse for them. The first problem is you have got the risk factor, because the price you pay for insurance relates to the risk you present, and for young drivers the statistics very, very clearly show that they are a much worse risk then a more mature, older driver.
Then of course, on top of that, they have got a double whammy in a way, because there is the element that relates to you as a driver, the history of you as a safe, or unsafe driver – the ‘no-claims bonus’ aspect – of course if you have just passed your test you have got no evidence of how safe a driver you are, so they get hit twice and that’s why its more expensive for young drivers.
Q3: And obviously the perception is among a lot of people is that they’re prepared to take this risk and actually go onto the road without insurance, because they don’t think they are going to get caught, but that’s not the case is it - there is a big clamp down on this problem?
NP: Well, something we found with ‘Police Interceptors’ and with ‘You’re Nicked’ is that this ANPR system, that the police use – Automatic Number Plate Recognition – kicks in and actually flags up when a car goes past a police car without insurance.
So, even if you think that you are not going to get stopped by the police for another reason, the fact is you can go past a police car, it sets off this little alarm and they will pull you over.
Its serious stuff, so your car gets taken, you are charged £150 and £20 a day for every day that its left in this police compound - you will then get an additional fine of £200 and the court can then charge you a further £5000, then you will get points on your licence, and then of course when you have reclaimed your vehicle, you have still then got to get it insured.
So, going out and buying a car isn’t a cheap business and we really want to hammer that home, it’s a serious business and it’s a fairly costly one as well.
Q4: So what can people do if they think “oh well, I’ll risk it because I can’t really afford £800?”
NP: Well I think the thing is with a lot of young drivers, and I would include myself in that – fairly young! – is that it is so expensive and you’re being pulled in every different direction, particularly in this current climate, and you’ve got to find ways of bringing down the cost. So people will say “well, I’ll pay for a car, I’ll buy a car, put petrol in it because they’re musts” – this is as important as putting petrol in a car, you can’t avoid it.
But there are steps you can take, there are programmes you can do. There is the passplus programme, which is at www.passplus.org.uk, and what that does is you get 6 hours of lessons, and they cost about the same as driving lessons but they take you up to a higher bracket, so you’re a better driver and therefore there are positive ramifications on how much you’ll pay for your insurance, so that’s definitely worth doing.
[to Ashton] I know that you’re quite keen on this pay as you go scheme as well?
AW: Yes, there’s developments in insurance now whereby some insurers will run this scheme where you can put an electronic box – a black box effectively – in your car, which maps where you are and the times you’re driving there.
So if you’re a low mileage driver and you’re prepared to limit the number of times you’re driving in the high-risk times – rush hour or the late at night / early hours of the morning, particularly for young drivers that is – then it’s worth looking at this as a way you can actually save on your insurance premiums.
Q5: The other impact of uninsured drivers is the effect it has on the rest of us isn’t it, because basically our premiums are loaded because of the fact that so many people are on the road without insurance, because we’re covering the costs if they have an accident aren’t we? Can you explain how all that works?
AW: Absolutely, and you’re quite right unfortunately, the honest, premium paying motorist has to subsidise the cost of these people who are prepared to drive without insurance. The way it works is that roughly in this country the cost of uninsured driving is about half a billion pounds – most of that, over 400million, we pay out as the Motor Insurance Bureau for the claims that uninsured drivers cost - if they injure somebody we have to pay the claims.
NP: That’s very generous of them, isn’t it(!)
AW: That money effectively comes from insurers who obviously collect it through their premiums, and it costs about £30 per policy per year for us to subsidise uninsured motorists, so its time to stop this.
Q6: What’s the aim, how quickly is this problem growing at the moment and what do you want to bring it down to?
AW: Well this particular campaign is aimed very much at those people who in the current climate, and Natalie has already referred to this, the fact that we’re in tough times – there’s an economic recession and people are looking for ways to tighten their belts and cut back on cost – so this campaign is very much aimed at those people and saying “we know times are tough, there are things you can do to look to reduce your insurance premiums, but whatever you do don’t risk driving without insurance, it just isn’t worth it.
You will get caught now and the implications are very, very serious – you’ll still have to buy the insurance if you want to drive the car anyway, it isn’t worth the risk. Don’t drive without insurance.
CF: Great. Ashton, Natalie – thank you.
NP: You’re very welcome, thank you!