Are you one of the one in twenty motorists who regularly drive without insurance? You'd better watch out - your car could be heading for the crusher and shipped off to the world's biggest scrap smelter in China!
New powers now allow the police to seize, impound and crush any car found on the road without insurance. A pilot scheme was introduced in Durham last spring. Since then, police have impounded more than 1,200 cars. Of those around half have been crushed into cubes and packed off for smelting.
Operation Takeaway as the pilot scheme was known, has been such a big success, that police forces throughout the UK are enthusiastically polishing up their tow trucks. The scheme is now supported by a new national police database that's supported by the insurance industry. It enables the police to check the insurance status of every car in the UK whilst they're sitting in their patrol car.
Now if you're caught red handed without car insurance you're forced to hand your keys to the police at the roadside. There are no exceptions - this applies to everyone; it doesn't matter if it's just a forgetful mistake or conscious driving without insurance.
Then you'll have to get your skates on! You've just 14 days to produce a valid insurance policy to the police and collect your car. And other costs mount up. Before you can collect your car, you have to pay the cost of kerbside recovery (around £105) and the cost of secure storage - and that could easily amount to £15 a day. So, if you leave collecting your car to the 14th day, you could be in for a bill for £315.
And if you don't reclaim your car, off to the crusher it goes!
During the pilot scheme, the cost of crushing the cars was partly funded by Direct Line. They have estimated that Operation Takeaway prevented up to 2,000 accidents. And many of the cars impounded by the police were found to be un-roadworthy.
A police spokesman said, ì Uninsured drivers are often guilty of many other offences. Such as having neither driving licence nor MOT certificate. We are doing everything in our power to get these dangerous and illegal drivers off our roadsî.
Indeed, uninsured drivers are much greater problem than many of us would expect. The Department of Transport recently reported that 1 in 20 motorists regularly drive without insurance. Furthermore, research from the Association of British Insurers discovered that uninsured drivers are amongst the most dangerous on the roads. On average they cause one accident every six months and are three times more likely to be convicted of driving without due care and attention.
And who pays for those uninsured accidents? We do! The average car insurance premium is loaded by £30 to cover the cost of damage caused by uninsured motorists. Across the UK that adds up to an extra £500 million paid out each year by the law-abiding motorists!
But that's not the end of our financial pain. If an uninsured vehicle collides into your car, it's still recorded as a ìfault claimî on your policy. This means you'll have to pay the excess when your car is repaired and unless you've got Claims Protection on your policy, your no-claims bonus will take a knocking. Over a two-year period, the reduction in your no claims bonus could easily cost £275 in higher premiums.
The move to take cars off the road and crush them has been warmly welcomed by the Association of British Insurers. The ABI has long criticised the leniency of punishment handed out by the courts to uninsured motorists but they still want tougher penalties. Offenders are typically fined just £150 to £200 - with time to pay - and this is much less than the average car insurance premium. Surely this cannot be true justice!
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