Something like 1.5 million drivers on the road have no insurance, and the majority of them are going to get caught, because of the increasingly sophisticated detection systems that the police now use.
We shouldn't really have sympathy for them, particularly since around 150 people a year are killed on the roads by uninsured drivers, but we can understand why they do it, even though we cannot excuse it. The fact is that car insurance prices are very high indeed even for older drivers with good clean driving records, and for most youngsters they are absolutely penal. It is not at all unusual for the insurance on a car to cost more every year than the car itself for drivers under the age of 25. So OK, what are these detection systems then?
The Motor Insurance Database
The motor insurance database (MID) is the main weapon. Every single car insurance policy is listed on here, and the police check it around 2500 times every hour to investigate suspected offences. Whenever a car insurance policy is bought in the UK the insurer has to enter the data onto the MID; this can take anything between a few hours and a few days, but not only the fact that a policy has been bought is entered, but a note is also put on if the policy is cancelled or lapses because of non-payment by the customer. This means that police officers have the insurance records of every car at their fingertips. You may feel that you are safe provided that you are not stopped and checked by the police, but this is not the case; you have the ANPR cameras to content with as well!
ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) Cameras
You are driving down the road minding your own business, when a police officer steps out into the road in front of you, flags you down and then informs you that he has reason to believe that you are driving without insurance. How on earth did he know? Simple. Further back down the road you have driven past the camera which has automatically read your number plate, compared your registration number to the MID database, discovered that there is no car insurance policy in force on that car, and you are well and truly nabbed.
If you are now unable to convince the police officer that you are in fact insured he will take your car keys from you, and there is a very good chance that he will seize your car and have it impounded; if you cannot produce an insurance certificate within 14 days there is a likelihood that the car will be crushed, and shipped off as scrap metal to China. If you can produce one there'll be an impounding fee of about £105 plus £12 a day for storage to pay - this is a rule of thumb figure and some authorities charge more.
New SORN Regulations
To make life even more difficult, it is now illegal to own a car which is not insured, even if it never ventures onto a public highway! If you take a car off the road you have to make a Statutory off Road Notification (i.e. a SORN) and if you fail to do this, and there is no car insurance policy in force on the vehicle, it will not be long before a fine of £100 lands on your doormat. If you still don't make the declaration (it only takes a few minutes to do it by ringing DVLA customer enquiries on 0870 850 4444) your car could even be seized and scrapped. To turn the screws even further your local police will be informed that there is an uninsured car in their vicinity, so that they can keep an eye open for it.
So, How Do You Get Round This?
The car could of course be insured by someone else, who was older and had a good driving record, and you could be a named driver on the policy. If you genuinely use the car for only a small proportion of the time that it is on the road, and the other driver uses it regularly, this is all well and good but if in fact you drove it regularly and the other person drove it rarely are not at all, then your insurance would be invalid. Not only would you be facing a possible criminal charge of attempting to defraud the insurance company, but the other driver could face a charge too, of allowing a vehicle to be on the road without insurance; the usual penalty for this is a fine of about £200 and six penalty points on that drivers licence. Insurance companies are well aware of this trick, which is called 'fronting', and if they have any doubts at all about the validity of 'named driver' cover they can make very extensive checks. If the named driver had an accident for which he or she was deemed responsible, many insurers would carry out a check automatically, and if they found that the policy conditions had not been carried out to the letter the claim would likely be refused.
The days of driving without insurance and getting away with it are over.