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Uninsured Driving

Volume 527: debated on Thursday 5 May 2011

The Government have already introduced the continuous insurance enforcement scheme that will come into force in late June, which says simply that everyone who intends to drive a vehicle on the road must be insured and that a vehicle must have a valid statutory off-road notification if there is no intent to drive.

Uninsured drivers are the scourge of our roads, adding to the insurance premium of the law-abiding motorist. With a fixed-penalty sanction against uninsured drivers of £200 and an average motor insurance policy premium of £892, rising to £2,431 for young drivers, is it not time to consider increasing the fixed-penalty fine to ensure that it is proportionate to the cost of motor insurance, to incentivise those who think that it is right to drive uninsured?

It is estimated that 1.5 million people drive without insurance, which is a huge cost burden to those who do insure, and there is strong evidence that those who are uninsured are likely to commit other driving and criminal offences. However, I assure my hon. Friend that we are looking closely at that.

One of the biggest incentives to drive illegally is the premium imposed by insurance companies. There are various schemes to try to reduce those costs, particularly for young drivers who are a problem in this regard. GPS can measure journey times, the hours of the day when people travel, and who else is in the car. Is the Department in negotiation with insurance companies to progress such schemes so that young people can afford insurance premiums and avoid driving without insurance?

Yes, we have frequent discussions with the insurance industry, but I must stress that being insured is not a choice; it is a legal requirement. We are trying to drive down the cost, which is partly the result of uninsured drivers driving up the cost of those who are insured, creating a perverse incentive, and partly the result of fraud, which is a massive issue that the Select Committee considered and to which I gave evidence. We are working with the insurance industry on some of the measures referred to by the hon. Gentleman. It is also important when requesting an insurance quote to tell the truth, for example about the number of points on one’s driving record, so that the insurance is not invalid when a claim is made.

I am sure that the Minister will want to commend the automatic number plate recognition scheme, which the police use effectively in west Yorkshire to catch people driving without insurance. However, does he agree that their efforts are undermined by the courts which give derisory fines to people caught driving without insurance? The fines that they give mean that, for many people, crime does pay.

ANPR is a huge move forward in how we catch more people who drive without insurance. As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr Jones), we are looking at the issue and working with other Departments to ensure that the punishment fits the crime.

Uninsured drivers contribute significantly to the number of crashes, deaths and serious injuries on the roads. When will we see the long-awaited road safety framework document, and will it address that issue? Does the Department intend to continue publishing targets for the reduction of deaths and serious injuries on our roads?

The hon. Gentleman used to have the job that I have the honour of doing these days, and he knows full well that the Government will publish the road safety strategy as soon as we can; he will have to wait for what is in it. He made a point about targets. If we are not careful, if we set targets the easy option is always the way forward. We have the safest roads in the world and we intend to keep them that way, but we are not going to set arbitrary targets and just say, “We have met that target, so we can ignore the harder option.”