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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 February 2008, 06:11 GMT
'Clever cameras' spot uninsured
Police stop driver on motorway
Catching uninsured motorists could be made easier, says the AA
Clever technology means the days of uninsured drivers using false number plates to escape detection may be over, the Automobile Association (AA) says.

The widespread use of automatic number plate recognition systems helped police seize nearly twice as many uninsured vehicles last year, compared to 2006.

But criminals are managing to stay one step ahead of the law - by using foreign number plates instead.

The AA is now calling for better checks on foreign registered vehicles.

Fewer uninsured drivers

Police figures gathered by the AA show that 150,000 uninsured vehicles were seized last year compared to 78,000 in 2006.

AA President Edmund King said the rise was not necessarily because there were more uninsured drivers on UK roads.

"Rather, we think it is because there is now the widespread use of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) systems," he said.

His contention is backed by police figures on the number of claims made for accidents with uninsured drivers. They have fallen: down from 36,340 in 2006 to 34,239 in 2007.

We have anecdotal evidence that many European drivers are failing to register their cars in the UK
AA President Edmund King

The government gave police more powers to use ANPR technology in 2006, as well as changing the rules to allow them to seize uninsured vehicles.

ANPR cameras are now fitted as standard in many police patrol vehicles. Connected to a database of insured vehicles, the device automatically scans the road ahead and alerts officers to uninsured vehicles, or those fitted with false UK plates.

Mr King said: "It used to be that some uninsured motorists driving top-of-the-range cars like Mercedes or BMWs felt they were less likely to be stopped.

"This may have been true a few years ago - but now they are finding that the camera does not discriminate."

Foreign plates

But the AA is warning that uninsured drivers - and those seeking to avoid speeding fines and congestion charges - are turning to a new ruse: foreign number plates.

Because foreign plates are not included in databases accessed by the police, they are not automatically picked up by ANPR cameras.

The AA says that because there is no record of foreign-registered vehicles going in and out of British ports of entry, it is impossible for police to check which cars are genuinely from outside the UK.

The AA is also concerned that many foreign drivers are flouting the rules that state that they must register their vehicles and fit UK number plates within six months of arriving in Britain.

"We have anecdotal evidence that many European drivers are failing to register their cars in the UK. When they are stopped by the police they claim they have just arrived in the country," said Mr King.

Hit and run

He called on the government to install ANPR cameras at ports and at the Channel Tunnel.

"That way the police will know which vehicles have come in, and also which vehicles have left the country

"It will enable them to catch UK drivers using false foreign plates, as well as catching foreign drivers who are trying to leave the country after committing a hit-and-run offence."

A spokesman for the Department of Transport said that while its rules placed an obligation on foreign drivers to register their vehicle after a certain length of time, enforcement of the rule was up to the Home Office and the police.

A Home Office spokesman said that any move to install ANPR technology at ports of entry would be a "police operational matter".

Six out of 10 drivers 'uninsured'
15 Feb 08 |  Bradford
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02 Nov 06 |  Magazine

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