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INSURANCE DATABASE SET TO DRIVE OUT CHEATING MOTORISTS

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An initiative to clamp down on uninsured driving by making it easier ...
An initiative to clamp down on uninsured driving by making it easier

for police to carry out roadside checks was welcomed yesterday by the

government.

The Motor Insurance Database will simplify the task of checking

drivers' insurance details by enabling police to access a

computerised information register as soon as they stop a motorist.

It will remove the need for honest vehicle owners to produce their

insurance certificates at police stations, and reduce valuable police

time spent dealing with law-abiding motorists.

The database, which is being launched by the motor insurer's

information centre, will contain similar information to that

currently found on motor insurance certificates. Policyholders'

privacy will be protected by safeguards to ensure that only the

police have access to personal insurance details.

It is estimated that up to 1.25m drivers are uninsured - the

equivalent of one in 20 cars on the road - but only around 300,000

drivers are convicted of insurance offences each year. This costs the

insurance industry more than£400m yearly, which includes

compensation for victims of accidents involving uninsured drivers,

and adds up to£30 to a motor insurance premium for the honest

motorist.

Home office minister Bob Ainsworth, who will attend the launch of the

Motor Insurance Database, said:

'The new database is good news for the victims of accidents because

it will help to reduce the number of motorists who drive without

insurance cover. It is also good news for law-abiding motorists who

will be relieved of the burden of subsidising the dishonest motorist.

'The only people who will not see it as good news are the

irresponsible cheats who refuse to pay for motor insurance. They can

be certain that their chances of being caught and prosecuted have

greatly increased.'

The database will also help with the detection of other motoring

offences, including driving without road tax, driving without an MoT,

and driving whilst disqualified.

NOTES

1. The motor insurer's information centre, which is a subsidiary of

the motor insurers bureau, will be running the Motor Insurance

Database.

2. The Vehicle Crime Act 2001 provides for the police to be given

access to the Motor Insurance Database, a centralised computer

register of motor insurance policies, to reduce the level of

uninsured driving.

3. In the first phase, the database contains insurance details of

privately-owned vehicles only. Over the next two years insurance

details for fleet and commercial vehicles will be added to the

database.

4. European countries that use the database system report evasion

levels of 1% or less compared to the UK's level of around 5%. These

include Germany, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium and Spain.

5. The current system for checking motor insurance is time-

consuming and expensive. It requires police to issue a form (HORT

1) in each case where evasion is suspected. The motorist must

present the form along with their insurance documentation at a

police station within seven days. A further form must then be

completed and returned to the original officer before, if

appropriate, a prosecution can be started.

6. ACPO estimate a police saving in excess of£15m each year by

dispensing with unnecessary bureaucracy.

7. Since 1946, the motor insurance bureau (MIB) has been

responsible for operating the UK National Guarantee Fund ensuring

victims of uninsured drivers are compensated. To this end, a levy

is charged on insurance premiums. In 2000 this was around£215m. In

addition, the costs borne by the insurance companies directly are

thought to be at least as much again through loss of premium

income. These are both passed onto policyholders in the form of

higher premiums, which are, on average,£15-£30 a year.

8. The database will enable the UK to comply with the requirement

of the 4th European Union Motor Insurance Directive by providing

accident victims with details of the other parties' insurer.

9. Government policy is to provide the public with the option of

accessing services electronically by 2005. The database will form

part of the system which will allow motorists to re-licence their

vehicle electronically rather than having to go to a Post Office or

sending a form to the DVLA in Swansea.

10. The maximum fine for driving without insurance is a£5,000 fine

with a compulsory six to eight penalty points on the licence.

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