Sunday, May 01, 2011

He Ought To Know Better

Simon Douglas, director of AA Insurance, called for harsher penalties for those caught who are actually driving without (insurance) cover.

He said: "The maximum fine available to the courts is £5,000, yet the average meted out is only £200, considerably less than the cost of insuring a vehicle in the first place.

"Such small fines are ludicrous if you compare them with the £1,000 fine for not having a television licence, for example."

This cost-of-insurance-vs-amount-of-fine issue is one that pops up on a regular basis, including in my local pub. Here are a few useful facts for Mr. Douglas to cut out and keep:-

There is no offence of not having an insurance policy. The offence is to drive without insurance (or security) at a particular date and time. Comparison with a year's premium is meaningless.

The maximum fine for any offence is for the worst possible case, with all of the possible aggravating features and none of the mitigating ones, for an offender of means, who pleads not guilty and is convicted. In reality such fines are rarely, if ever, imposed. The maximum fine for a simple drink-drive is £5000. Ever hear of it being imposed? No, neither have I.

The Guidelines suggest a fine in Band C of the scale. For a straightforward no insurance case, and someone earning the average wage of about £350 per week, that would mean a fine of £350 after deducting one-third as credit for the plea, plus costs, surcharge, and 6+ points or a ban. But most of our defendants are not on £350 per week, but rather on benefits, in which case the fine might well be £100, plus the costs surcharge and points.

It is now police practice to seize uninsured cars and to scrap or sell them unless the owner can get insurance within (I think) 14 days. There is also a fee to pay. In practice most of the old bangers are simply surrendered, as insurance would far exceed the value of the car.

All of the above applies equally to Mr.Douglas' ridiculous example of a £1000 fine for having no TV licence. That's what the Licensing people want you to think, but in reality most fines are around the £100 mark.

Heavier penalties are not the answer to uninsured driving. If young Wayne decided to risk driving uninsured, it would make no difference to him whether the fine was £50 or £5000. To be deterred, you have to be capable of a certain level of thought process. The Waynes of this world mostly lack that capability.

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