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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 August, 2004, 07:28 GMT 08:28 UK
An uninsured driver cost me 4,000
By Julian Knight
BBC News Online personal finance reporter

Saloni Mongia
Ms Mongia feels she was punished
A crackdown on uninsured driving has been announced. BBC News Online talked to one motorist who had to battle for compensation when her car collided with an uninsured driver's vehicle.

Saloni Mongia, 30, from London, is counting the cost of her car's involvement in an accident with an uninsured driver.

In late 2002, Ms Mongia allowed her sister to drive her new 18,000 Mercedes in the capital when the car was involved in a head-on collision with a BMW.

The Mercedes was a write-off and Ms Mongia's sister suffered whiplash.

But Ms Mongia's family drama was turned into a crisis by the fact that the driver of the BMW had no insurance.

I felt like I was being punished because the other driver didn't have insurance
Saloni Mongia

"I thought having comprehensive insurance meant I would be fine," Ms Mongia told BBC News Online.

"However, it took me six months to get compensation. I spent the whole time without a car."

Tortuous

Overall, Ms Mongia said she found the whole claims process tortuous.

"It was a real nightmare, my insurer was very uncooperative. I felt like I was being punished because the other driver didn't have insurance."

As the driver of the BMW had no motor cover, Ms Mongia's insurer had to take its case to the Motor Insurers' Bureau (MIB).

The MIB was set up by the government to cover the estimated 500m cost of accidents involving uninsured drivers.

It is funded by the car insurance industry, and adds an estimated 30 a year to the average motor premium.

"It can often take a long time to settle a claim following an accident with an uninsured driver," Roger Snook, director of the MIB, told BBC News Online.

"One party to the accident is often uncooperative, and sometimes there is a criminal court case to be got out of the way."

Plead poverty

Eventually, Ms Mongia received 14,000 in compensation and the uninsured driver was found guilty of driving without insurance and fined 140.

car crash
Crashes involving uninsured drivers cost 500m a year

"I find it incredible that I do everything that I am supposed to do and the accident costs me 4,000, while the driver without insurance is fined such a small sum."

However, the fine imposed is not out of the ordinary.

According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI) the average fine for driving without insurance is 150, despite the fact that the maximum fine for the offence is 5,000.

"Defendants often plead poverty and the court is duty bound to take this into consideration," Jon Sellars, spokesman for motor insurer MoreThan, told BBC News Online.

"The simple truth is that the justice system doesn't treat driving without insurance as a serious enough offence."

Hit and run

The car insurance market has long been stuck in a vicious circle.

A full no-claims bonus can knock up to two-thirds off an insurance premium

Uninsured drivers have more accidents, which push up the premiums of honest motorists.

This, in turn, makes insurance more expensive - meaning fewer people can afford cover.

As a result, Ms Mongia is far from alone.

More than a million uninsured drivers are believed to be at large on UK roads.

ABI figures show that uninsured drivers are nearly 10 times more likely to have been convicted of drink driving than a motorist with insurance.

Chillingly, the prevalence of uninsured drivers on UK roads has been blamed for a surge in the number of "fail to stop" incidents, commonly known as hit and run.

Crush

The ABI has long been calling for government action to tackle uninsured driving, suggesting that offenders be given community service orders and their cars impounded.

Police in Cumbria and Liverpool recently announced that they have confiscated and crushed hundreds of vehicles owned by uninsured drivers.

Car being taken away
Police forces have started crushing the vehicles of uninsured drivers

"There is no silver bullet solution to the problem of uninsured drivers, but something has to be done to ease the burden currently falling on honest insured motorists," Malcolm Tarling, spokesman for ABI, told BBC News Online.

Technology

On Wednesday the government publishes the Greenaway report into uninsured driving.

Professor David Greenaway, of Nottingham University, recommends a more co-ordinated approach to tackling the problem.

At present, uninsured drivers are usually detected only when they are physically stopped by the police.

But Professor Greenaway may call for the databases of insurers to be linked to that of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).

Fines could then be automatically generated when insurance expires.

A similar scheme operates in Sweden where the percentage of drivers with no insurance is less than 1%, compared to an estimated 5% in the UK.

The combined database could even be linked up to CCTV traffic cameras.

The answer has to lie in technology and police being given more powers to confiscate and crush the vehicles of uninsured drivers
Jon Sellars, MoreThan insurer

Number plate recognition technology of the kind used for London's congestion charge system could allow police to spot unregistered, untaxed and uninsured vehicles on UK roads.

Opportunity

One other option for Professor Greenaway would be to recommend that an insurance disc should be displayed in the windscreen of all motor vehicles.

If a car lacks a valid disc, police, traffic wardens and parking attendants could issue fines.

However, the insurance disc proposal is derided by the UK insurance industry.

"Any disc-based scheme is open to fraud, and is reliant on the vehicle being stationary when someone in authority is there to check it," Mr Sellars said.

"The answer has to lie in technology and police being given more powers to confiscate and crush the vehicles of uninsured drivers."

"The government is often accused of being anti-motorist. However, they now have a clear opportunity to do something that will be welcomed by honest motorists and insurers alike."


WATCH AND LISTEN
Saloni Mongia
"I want to see uninsured drivers with no cars"



SEE ALSO:
How to save on your car insurance
04 Feb 04  |  Business
Crushed car warning to uninsured
01 Jul 04  |  Cumbria
Drink menace of uninsured drivers
31 Mar 04  |  Business
Drivers warned of insurance scam
13 Nov 03  |  Derbyshire
Fraud costs insurers 20m a week
28 Oct 03  |  Wiltshire


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