Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Cover Notes

Elsewhere on the Interweb the perennial argument about penalties for driving without insurance has popped up again. One often hears the complaint, in the pub or the letters page of the local rag, that it is cheaper to drive without insurance because the fine is often less than the premium that has been dodged. But it's not as simple as that. As my Clerk points out, there is no offence of not having an insurance policy, only of driving without insurance at a particular time and place, so you could with equal logic argue that the premium avoided is one 365th of the annual cost. Further, there is an overriding principle that fines must be reasonably payable within no more than 12 months, so fining a young man who is receiving weekly benefit of £48 the premium of £1500 or so that would be required to insure him is simply impractical. What happens in practice (and assuming that a fixed penalty of £200 and six points has not been offered) is a fine of about a week's net income, less a third for a guilty plea, and six to eight penalty points. Where the lack of insurance is aggravated by the lack of a driving licence and a test never have having been taken, we normally disqualify for about three months for a first offence, and six to twelve months for a repeat offence.
If we do not disqualify, the minimum number of points is six, which has two effects:- if the driver is within two years of passing his test his licence will be revoked, and if he offends a second time within three years he must be disqualified for at least six months. Of course the cynics will say that some will just carry on driving anyway, and that is true, but driving while disqualified is much further up the scale, carrying up to six months imprisonment. Police enforcement has become much easier with Number Plate Recognition technology coupled with the insurance database. We will never get 100% compliance until insurance is unavoidable, such as by a tax on petrol, and I can't see that happening because people like me, who are in comfortable middle age, will have to pay a lot more to subsidise young tearaways - and we don't want to do that, do we?

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