Driving without insurance on public roads is a serious offence. It carries with it a range of convictions, fines, penalty points and sometimes, longer-term repercussions that are damaging to home and work life. In the end, driving uninsured, and thereby breaking the law, is not worth the risk.
Why are people driving without insurance?
People, driving without insurance, fall into two basic categories. There are those who are unintentionally driving without insurance and those who have deliberately chosen not to purchase a policy.
Some of the broader implications of driving without insurance
The cost of people driving without insurance is high. Accidents, involving those driving without insurance, cost millions of pounds every year. Those who have had accidents caused by people, driving without valid cover, can seek compensation through the Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB). It is a ‘last resort' fund and assists people who have exhausted all other compensation sources. Insurance companies, which handle vehicle cover, are charged a levy by the MIB. This charge is passed on to all the people who do have vehicle insurance, and adds an estimated £30 to every person's premium each year. Therefore, the more people who have valid cover, the lower the insurance premiums will be for all.
The law is quite clear. As a minimum, valid third party cover is essential in order to drive a vehicle on the roads or in a public area.
Continuous Insurance Enforcement (CIE). This rule for vehicles is applied in England, Scotland and Wales. It means that the registered keeper must either obtain vehicle insurance or must formally make an off the road vehicle notification. In other words, whether the keeper is driving the vehicle, or a friend is using the vehicle or it is left unattended or parked in a public place, the vehicle must, at least, have third party cover. The fixed fine for, an unattended vehicle, not being insured, is £100 and the vehicle may be wheel-clamped. In some cases the vehicle may instead be impounded or even destroyed. In addition prosecution in court and a fine of up to £1000 may be imposed. As well as any fines, insurance has then to be paid.
Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN). The purchase of a tax disc and the purchase of insurance is not required for a car that is stored on private property and not taken into public places or on the roads. The keeper does, however, have to have a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) and ensure that the vehicle is in Great Britain and stays there. If a SORN is not made, the keeper can, immediately, be fined £80, be required to purchase a tax disc and pay any arrears due. A court could also impose a fine of up to £1000. When a vehicle has a SORN it may not be driven on public roads or left in a public place and if this occurs, a fine of up to £5000 may be charged. Though it is not required by law, it is safer to have the vehicle insured. Firstly, it means that if someone steals it, and takes it on the road, it is covered. Secondly, it can be taken to a pre-arranged MOT test. Without insurance driving the vehicle to a test would be equivalent to driving without insurance and a fine and penalty points would result.
Fines, penalty points, disqualification and prison sentences for driving without insurance
Even if the vehicle is adequately insured, fines and penalty points can still arise if the driver is not correctly insured to drive that particular vehicle. The registered keeper of the vehicle needs to be sure that anyone who they allow to drive their vehicle, is actually insured to drive it. If the driver is not insured then the keeper of the vehicle can be convicted of an offence and fines and penalty points can be imposed.
In this whole area of driving without insurance, the law is the law and both fines and penalty points are significant.
Fixed Penalty Notice and Seizing of the vehicle. Driving without insurance is deemed to be a serious offence. If a person is not insured to drive the vehicle being driven, the police may give a Fixed Penalty Notice with a fine of £200 and have their licence endorsed with 6 penalty points. Police can check insurance status immediately they stop a vehicle, and if cover cannot be proved, they have the right to take the vehicle away. This would mean that there would be charges incurred for the transportation and storage of the vehicle. The police can permit certification to be brought to the police station within 7 days. If this does not happen a further offence is committed. It should be noted here that proof of insurance is essential, so it is wise to have the policy certificate, or a copy of it, in the vehicle, ready to show the police. If the vehicle is impounded then before it is released, valid insurance evidence must be produced. If it is not produced, and the vehicle is not collected within 14 days, the police can scrap the vehicle.
Disqualification from driving may occur in the following situations:
o If a driver has a conviction for a driving offence, the court will use the seriousness of the offence as a basis for determining how long the disqualification will be. Some driving bans can be around 28 days. Disqualification for less than 56 days is referred to as ‘short period disqualification'. The court stamps the driver's paper driving licence or counterpart document and hands it back to the driver.
o Disqualification may also occur if a driver receives 12 or more endorsements or penalty points in a three year period. This would result in disqualification for 6 months. However if a second disqualification occurs within 3 years, then the period could be for one year. A third disqualification pushes the period disqualified out to two years. Disqualification for 56 days and over automatically results in the driver having to apply for a new licence prior to driving again. This involves completing a form and sending in a new passport-size photograph. If deemed necessary by the courts, the person might also have to have another driving test or an extended driving test.
o For a new driver, still in the probationary period of two years, driving without insurance results in the fines and penalty points applicable to other drivers in that situation. However, in addition, a new driver may have their driving licence revoked. This would mean that such a driver would have to take the driving test again at their expense.
Prison sentences. If a person is driving without insurance and there is an accident where a member of the public is killed, the driver may receive a criminal conviction and a prison sentence of up to two years, even if that driver was not driving dangerously.
Driving without insurance has repercussions
Driving without insurance can cause major disruption in a person's life, both at home and at work. Being caught involves fines resulting in financial loss and licence endorsements. The stress would be hard emotionally and, if a friend or family member is also directly involved, this could be difficult and result in tension in that relationship. Court time would have an impact on other activities. In some cases the vehicle may be seized and, even, crushed, and in other cases disqualification may occur. The person would have difficulty getting to work or doing the usual family travel. If the job required driving this could mean facing loss of employment. Future insurance premiums would be very high. If an accident occurred, there would be expenses for damage to the other vehicle, injuries incurred, damage to other property, legal fees and maybe a prison sentence with all the consequences that that would bring.
Staying on the right side of the law
It is not enough to just have insurance; the driver must also prove that the insurance policy exists. This would be done by providing a certificate. Many insurance companies advertise ‘instant' cover over the phone or via the internet. If cover is applied for in this way, it is important to wait for the arrival of the insurance certificate before driving the vehicle; otherwise the proof of the insurance is not available.
The law shows that driving without insurance carries a lot of risks. To be able to relax and enjoy driving, free of the threat of insurance-related penalty points, fines or worse, there is a simple solution. The ideal approach is to ensure that there is a valid policy in place and to carry that policy, or at least a copy of it, in the vehicle at all times. Happy driving!
Unintentionally Driving without Insurance
Those in this first group think they have the correct cover and do not realise that their insurance is not valid, for the particular time or situation in which they find themselves. They think they are safe from receiving fines or penalty points. Reasons range from ignorance of the law, to thinking that the insurance in place is adequate, to being misled by others, to being conned by a scam. It is helpful to look at some of these reasons for driving uninsured more closely.
I simply forgot to renew my insurance.” The law is plain and can be summed up in the simple equation: ‘Vehicle in use' plus ‘no valid policy' equals ‘breaking the law'. In fact, driving without insurance is an "absolute” or "strict liability” offence. Basically this means that guilt is automatic because the law has been broken. If the vehicle is in use or in a public place, the person is guilty of the offence of driving without insurance, and a fine and penalty points would be imposed. There would be no room for leniency from the conviction, even if difficult circumstances or problems led the person to forget, because the Road Traffic Act has to be obeyed.
My insurance company did not notify me that my policy had expired.” Insurance companies usually do warn people when their policies are about to expire, but, they are not obliged to do so. Consequently, they cannot be blamed and it is up to the driver to ensure that the correct policy is in place. Failure to be adequately insured results in an offence being committed. A fine and penalty points are likely to follow.
I have a comprehensive policy on my car. I was helping a friend and drove his car. We both honestly believed that my policy would be adequate.” In this case, both the keeper of the vehicle and the person driving would be guilty of offences. The driver is guilty because he did not have the correct cover. The keeper of the vehicle is guilty because he allowed a driver, who was not insured, to drive his vehicle. They would both be faced with fines and penalty points.
My boss told me to drive the company vehicle and said there was appropriate cover. However the policy on it had expired.” The court may feel there are mitigating circumstances and have some sympathy for the position of the person who was driving, as he was misled, but the fact is, the driver is guilty of breaking the law because he did not make certain that valid cover was in place. Both the driver and his boss would be convicted. Between them they would receive fines and penalty points.
I helped a friend have her car towed to the garage. She asked me to just sit in it and steer. I wasn't insured to drive it, but I wasn't actually driving it as it was being towed, so I thought it would be all right.” The person who steered the vehicle would be found guilty and convicted of the offence because the vehicle was in use on a public road. To get around this and avoid breaking the law, either the necessary policy must be in place, or the vehicle should be put on a tow truck or attached to one that does not require a person to be at the wheel. Failure to do this would mean that the keeper and the driver would, between them, receive fines and penalty points.
Intentionally Driving Without Insurance
Those in the second group make a deliberate decision, either to not disclose certain facts to the insurance company when a policy is purchased, or to not buy insurance cover at all. Reasons for breaking the law range from desperation, to choosing not to be completely honest when a policy is taken out, to inadequate resources to pay for cover, to getting a thrill from taking the risk of being uninsured, to not caring at all about the law, or abiding by it. Some of these reasons are as follows.
My son probably drives the car more than I do but he is young still and the cost of insurance for him is huge. I decided to put myself as the main driver when I took out the policy. I'm sure it is all right. After all I do drive the car sometimes.” Non-disclosure of the facts, whether it is to receive lower premiums or not, can result in the driver being classed as driving without insurance. Parents who claim to be the main drivers of a vehicle, when it is their daughter or son who are actually driving the car, more of the time, are pushing their child into the situation of breaking the law. This is called "fronting”. If this behaviour is investigated the deception would be discovered, the law would be broken, an offence would be committed and a fine and penalty points would follow. The son or daughter would be guilty.
I had to have a car to get to work so I borrowed the money to buy it. Until I get my first pay I can't afford to buy cover.” With the law being so clear, it is taking a huge risk to be driving without insurance, even for a few days or weeks. Apart from the aspect of breaking the law, for someone, who is struggling financially, to be faced with a fine could be disastrous. Added to that receiving penalty points is detrimental when looking at insurance cover in the future.
I've never been insured and I've been driving for six years. I don't reckon I'll get caught, so why pay premiums that just help insurance companies build huge buildings.” This person resents the amount of money they would have to pay to purchase a policy. Past experience seems to indicate to them that they will not get caught. However if they are daily breaking the law, then there is a strong likelihood that, eventually, they will be caught. The police are out, particularly in certain areas, and in such cases fines and penalty points would be given.
I know how to dodge the police. It's my entertainment. They'll never catch me.” Some people think they are too clever to get caught and enjoy the feeling of risk that they get every time they sit behind the wheel. They get a thrill from doing something illegal and treat the whole driving without insurance issue, as a game. When they avoid being discovered, they feel proud and think this raises their status with their friends. These people would do well to remember that the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system operating on public roads means that vehicles are able to be checked quickly and easily, so more people are being caught. The law is using modern technology to catch people driving uninsured and a fine and penalty points will be imposed, particularly when lack of insurance is deliberate.
"I can't get any sort of cover. I've tried but because of my past convictions it is impossible.” Some companies may not offer policies to everyone, but there are other companies that assist those people who have had previous convictions. It is important to keep looking for them because the reality is that breaking the law again will make things worse. What would also be detrimental is if the person tried to gain cover without disclosing previous convictions. If they do this, then they are effectively driving without insurance because the policy would be invalidated due to ‘misrepresentation'. It would be very unlikely that they would escape fines and penalty points.
I don't care if I break the law. Why should I get cover anyway?” Some people have no social conscience and do not care that their actions have an impact on others. They flaunt the law at every opportunity. They often cannot even see why people would get upset with their attitude. In some cases this may be due to a temporary drug- or alcohol-fuelled disregard for authority and the law. For others it may stem from a long-term contempt for the law and anyone who enforces it. Despite not wanting to abide by the law, fines and penalty points would be handed down.
Assistance for those caught driving without insurance
‘Special Reasons.' Though guilty of breaking the law, if a person is caught driving without insurance, the magistrate may consider mitigating circumstances. If there is a summons to court, but this is a first offence, usually between 6 and 8 penalty points would be given, but no ban on driving. However a magistrate does have some flexibility regarding endorsing a licence with penalty points, despite the fact that a driver is guilty of driving without insurance. If a magistrate finds that a driver genuinely and honestly believes he or she is insured and has "special reasons” for believing this, then a magistrate may decide not to have the driver's licence endorsed with penalty points. "Special reasons” do not include misreading the wording of a policy. However being misled can offer "reasonable grounds” for a driver honestly believing he or she is covered. For example a son may believe his parents when they tell him that he is insured to drive. If the parents have misled the son, the courts may feel that it would not be fair to endorse the son's licence. Another example would be where a driver's insurance is terminated without his knowledge. This can happen when an automatic bank payment fails or there is an error in the insurance company's administration. This brings some sort of fairness to the issue as it allows the court to distinguish between drivers who make a genuine mistake and those who are deliberately and knowingly driving without insurance. In some cases, therefore, they may not endorse the driver's licence with penalty points. However the law states that courts, can give fines of up to £5000. The amount of the fine would be considered in the light of the circumstances. For example in some cases consideration would be given to whether or not the keeper of the vehicle was the driver. Generally fines are given on a means-tested basis.
Voiding of the conviction. People are guilty until they prove otherwise, so it is up to the keeper and the driver to give evidence to the court that a valid policy is in place. For instance, the police computer system may be found to have not been up-to-date. In this case, if valid insurance cover can be produced then the case against the insured person would not proceed. Another example would be that of a driver being covered by a valid policy, held by a company or another person, which was not immediately apparent to the police. Exposing this would constitute a strong line of defence, and once proof is given would mean that the case would be dropped.
Legal assistance. There are a number of lawyers who assist people with navigating the law and court system and help them defend their cases. If this route is chosen the results may be beneficial to those caught driving without insurance, but they come at a financial cost.