The British Insurance Brokers' Association (BIBA) has warned that stiffer penalties are required to deal with the growing problem of uninsured driving. Tougher sanctions such as vehicle seizure and longer prison sentences have been recommended.

The trade body revealed that up to 1.4 million UK motorists are thought to be without the appropriate insurance, representing around 5% of the cars on the nation’s roads.

The figures are in stark contrast to other European countries such as Germany, where it is estimated that the level of uninsured driving is only around one in 200 motorists. Figures from the Association of British Insurers underline the extent to which uninsured driving has grown in the past decade with the cost of accidents having risen from GBP180 million in 1995 to around GBP500 million in 2005.

BIBA’s call for tougher penalties comes in the wake of last year’s announcement from the Department for Transport of a new approach to tackling uninsured drivers. This includes plans to impose fixed penalties on motorists who ignore reminders that their insurance has expired and to raise the maximum levels of fines for motorists caught driving without insurance. For repeat offenders, the ultimate sanction could involve the confiscation and destruction of their vehicle.

Current legislation has proved ineffective in dealing with the issue of uninsured drivers. The average offender receives a fine of around GBP150. Compared to the average annual motor premium of GBP360, the deterrent value to motorists considering driving without insurance has been minimal, particularly among young urban drivers facing high premiums.

Commenting on the subject of uninsured drivers, Graeme Trudgill, technical services manager at BIBA said: Not only do uninsured drivers add an estimated GBP30 to every motor policy premium of honest motorists, they can also cost insured drivers thousands if they are involved in an accident with them. We feel that one of the best ways to deter offenders is to ensure that the punishment fits the crime, which unfortunately is not the case at the moment.
Detection rates are also low as motorists are rarely asked for insurance documentation when they are stopped by police.

Plans to link the DVLA’s vehicle register and Motor Insurance Database, together with plans to implement new technology to read vehicle registration plates could help to overcome this problem in the long-term.