One million uninsured drivers on Britain's roads

car keys handed over©iStock.com/woraput

THE Motor Insurers' Bureau (MIB) have estimated that one in 38 of the estimated 37,000,000 vehicles on Britain's roads are being driven without insurance, putting the total number of uninsured vehicles close to one million.

simon chandler
By Simon Chandler

The MIB have released this figure as part of Operation Drive Insured, an insurance awareness week the Bureau is organising in collaboration with the National Roads Policing Intelligence Forum (NRPIF).

As part of this campaign, the MIB have also released statistics on the areas of England with the highest incidence of uninsured vehicles.

London leads the pack in this respect, with both the highest number of uncovered vehicles (191,000) and the highest percentage (6.1%).

However, the Bureau also notes that the West Midlands is the region with the highest number of uninsured "hotspots" - postal districts that have the biggest proportions of uninsured regions.

It boasts 11 out of the top 20, and since many of these spots also witness high proportions of unemployment and younger people, the data suggest that the failure to buy insurance is as much about economics as it is a lack of awareness.

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As for this awareness, the MIB and the NRPIF hope to raise it by highlighting the penalties that face motorists if they're caught driving an uninsured car.

To begin with, they'd receive a fine of £300. This is less than half of the average annual cost of car insurance, which at £625.70 rose by £100 over the 12 months leading to January.

They'd also receive six points on their licence, meaning that it would be revoked if they'd passed their driving test two years previously. For drivers who'd passed their tests more than two years after receiving the six points, it would mean they'd be disqualified from driving for at least six months if they then go on to obtain six more points within three years.

Another possible penalty is that their uninsured vehicle ends up being crushed. As drastic as this might sound, this is a very real possibility, with 27,000 uninsured cars having been seized by the police by August of last year and 6,700 of this total being crushed.

Even disregarding the benefits of being covered in case of an accident, it's therefore highly recommended that motorists get themselves insured.

The MIB and NRPIF also recommend insurance for the simple reason that detection measures are improving all the time.

This is what Detective Superintendent Paul Keasey, the Head of NRPIF, affirmed. He said, "With ever-improving technology including the police's widespread use of ... Automatic Number Plate Recognition, the message from all our police forces is: you will be caught".

With such technology, the campaign claims that the police will be "seizing around 3,000 vehicles per week this year" as part of their bid to clamp down on uninsured motoring.

The police and the MIB believe that they've been making a good job of this as well, with the total number of uninsured vehicles in Britain decreasing from two million in 2005 to the one million of today.

Nonetheless, the Bureau reported a "worrying" increase in uninsured drivers last year, and in fact, they gave precisely the same figure - one million - of uninsured cars in 2015 as they did in 2016.

The Top 20

This therefore reveals that something more needs to be done to combat uninsured motoring than simple warnings.

What this something could be is hinted at by the MIB's regional data, which reveal that London is the area of the UK with the most uninsured vehicles and that the West Midlands is the area with the highest number of postal region "hotspots" in the top 20.

This is interesting because, according [PDF] to the Office for National Statistics, the West Midlands has the second highest unemployment rate in the country.

It also has the "highest proportion of the working-age population having no qualifications among all the English regions", and witnessed an 11% decline in manufacturing jobs between 1996 and 2010.

Things become more revealing still when the specific West Midland hotspots are examined individually.

The number one hotspot, for example, is B9, which overlaps with Birmingham. At 46.8%, its proportion of residents classed as belonging to social grade DE (semi-skilled, unskilled, or unemployed workers) is well above the national average, which stands at 26%.

More interestingly, Birmingham - which is home to 10 of the top 20 hotspots - has an average age of 35.3 and a median age of 32 according to the 2011 census.

By contrast, the average for England and Wales is 39.4 and the median is 39.

This is significant because the MIB themselves highlighted in 2015 that a third of uninsured motorists were under 30.

What's more, younger drivers notoriously have to pay higher insurance costs, with the typical price for a year's insurance being £1,246 for someone aged between 17 and 24.

Given these costs, given West Midlands' higher than average rates of unemployment and young people, it's not surprising that 11 of the top 20 hotspots are located in the area.

Quality of life

But other than sending threats of punishment to a demographic less able to afford car insurance, what could be done about this?

Well, in adapting an idea first proposed by the Local Government Association (LGA) with regards to broadband and the vulnerable, it would be worth considering the feasibility of providing a car-insurance subsidy for people whose incomes fall below a certain threshold.

While this might sound like an unrealistic measure, more or less the same case for the necessity of having a car and being mobile could be made as that for the necessity of being connected to the internet.

For instance, households without a car make only two thirds [PDF] as many trips each year as households with a car.

Also, "people with mobility difficulties make fewer commuting, education or leisure trips than those without mobility difficulties", according to the most recent National Travel Survey conducted by the Department for Transport.

Because having a car can have such a big impact on a person's quality of life, there's a genuine call for some kind of subsidy or help for people who might want to drive but can't possibly handle the costs and complexity of insurance.

It might require public spending, but it would potentially increase national economic output at the same time. At the very least, it would be more humane than having the police tell uninsured motorists that their days are numbered.

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