Drivers told to get legal or get crushed
Accidents caused by motorists without cover add about £30 to the annual premium of honest drivers. And, on average, 160 people are killed every year in crashes caused by drivers with no cover.
Police have had the power to seize uninsured cars for two years. But they are now using them with growing confidence because of a closer working relationship with the Motor Insurers' Bureau.
The MIB investigates and pays for claims when drivers have no insurance or are untraced. Last year, it needed £360m to meet these claims, paid for by a levy on the premiums of all motorists.
The MIB also runs the Motor Insurance Database - a record of cover details for every vehicle in the land. And the database is giving police a crucial edge. Computerised cameras that read number plates of passing traffic and, via a link with the database, automatically identify vehicles that appear to have no insurance.
About one in three drivers who are caught never reclaim their car, leaving police to bear the cost of crushing, disposal or resale.
For the past two years, insurer Direct Line has paid some of the costs of recovery and storage of uninsured vehicles in County Durham, allowing police to target the problem hard. Almost 4,000 uninsured vehicles have been taken off the road through this initiative.
Those prosecuted through magistrates courts in 2005 were fined on average just £173 - far less than the cost of an annual policy. But the growing willingness of police to take uninsured cars off the road has tilted the balance. Most receive a fixed-penalty notice. This is a £200 fine and the driver's licence is endorsed with six points.
They also have to pay for the cost of transporting their car from the roadside, typically more than £100, and daily storage costs of between £10 and £20 depending on the police force area. They can reclaim the car only after they produce valid insurance documents.ENDS