Penalties for drivers without insurance are now more lenient than they were 11 years ago.
Magistrates have been accused of going soft on uninsured drivers. David Ruffley, Tory party spokesman on the police, has uncovered figures which show fines are lighter than they were eight years earlier. Offenders received fines averaging just £177, he said, compared with £224 they paid back in 1997.
The Home Office estimates there are more than two million uninsured vehicles, many more than there were a decade ago. Yet despite this, the number of drivers brought before courts remains steady at just under 400,000 a year.
But these figures are, although they are the latest available, are for 2005. We’d expect convictions to have risen since as the police increase the use of automatic number plate recognition technology, which enables them to pounce on uninsured drivers and confiscate their cars, unless they can prove on the spot that they have insurance.
The AA, which helps millions of drivers find insurance, says ANPR and advances in vehicle data link-ups have helped the police snatch 200,000 vehicles over the last two years. Accidents involving uninsured drivers also fell by 5.8% last year, suggesting that police efforts to track law-breakers were paying off.
But the size of fines is a concern. As David Ruffley says: ‘driving uninsured is often the sign of more serious criminality. But, amazing, the courts are passing derisory penalties.’
According to the AA, comprehensive insurance costs on average £629 for a year. Put another way, the quoted average fine equals the cost of just three months’ cover.