/ Motoring

The high human cost of uninsured drivers

Smashed windscreen with blood on it

New data reveals the high human cost of uninsured driving, showing that 25% of collisions they are involved in result in someone being injured or killed. So is it time to get tougher on those who drive without insurance?

Being involved in an accident with an uninsured driver is among most motorists’ worst fears.

We all know these drivers are out there, and many of us feel a prickle of outrage when we hand over the cash for our yearly insurance premiums, angrily imagining the scores of people who aren’t bothering to buy cover.

Now, new research reveals the scale of the problem. According to a report from Direct Line and road safety charity Brake, 3.3 million drivers (1 in 10) have been involved in a collision with a driver who was uninsured.

High financial costs

In a previous Which? Conversation post, I pointed out that honest drivers who dutifully renew their insurance policies each year are effectively making up the shortfall for those who don’t.

Uninsured drivers cost the UK £500m each year, according to Direct Line and Brake – which means the rest of us shell out around £30 every year on their behalf.

Elsewhere, the Co-op has claimed the combined sum lost to uninsured driving and insurance fraud is much higher – upwards of a £1bn a year, equating to roughly £50 per law-abiding motorist.

The even higher human cost

But what about the fact that uninsured driving ruins lives and kills people – not just bruises our already-battered budgets?

Direct Line and Brake’s survey found that, of crashes involving uninsured drivers, 25% ended up with someone being injured. Among these accidents, 4% left at least one person dead.

And it’s often law-abiding drivers who are hurt. Of the drivers who’d been involved in a crash with an uninsured driver, 15% said they’d been injured. Adding insult to injury, in 17% of collisions studied as part of the research, the uninsured driver did not stop – choosing instead to leave the scene of the accident.

How to handle uninsured drivers?

When I wrote about uninsured drivers in 2010, I received a passionate response from Which? Conversation readers – some of whom believed we should ban uninsured drivers from taking to the roads ever again. However, Richard Emery pointed out:

‘Banning uninsured drivers may have limited effect because anyone who drives without insurance is quite likely to drive when banned. If they own the car that they are driving then it should be confiscated and sold, with the money going to the MIB.’

Under the new system of Continuous Insurance Enforcement (CIE) it’s now an offence for anyone to keep, not just to drive, an uninsured vehicle. The DVLA is to work in partnership with the Motor Insurers’ Bureau to identify uninsured vehicles, whose owners will then be warned that action will follow if they do not purchase cover.

If the owner of an uninsured vehicle does not buy insurance, they will face a £100 fine and may have their car seized and destroyed.

But is this the best way to tackle the problem? Do you think CIE will be effective – and are these penalties really tough enough?


Just because a car is insured, does not mean it is insured for the driver usng it. So CIE is not effective.

My 20 year old son is legal because I pay £3200 a year for insurance on a 56 plate 1.2 VW Polo, it did his CBT at 16 rode a moped for a year, passed his driving test 6 weeks after his 17th Birthday, and Pass Plus 2 weeks later, he has never had an accident and has no convictions.

The reason so many are uninsured is the high cost of insurance sadly, and maybe it is time to have a rethink, Farmers Weekly had a good article by a great journalist.
Young people in rural areas need a vehicle to get work, with so many public transport links being reduce.

Insurance companies should sell longer policies 3 and 5 years, and also contractractable insurance where a young person pays £1200 a year but in the event of a claim, they are contracted to pay a further £1200 over the following year additional.

Nigel Whitfield says:
20 April 2011

Insurance companies do need to think harder about this, and so perhaps does the government. You can blame people driving without insurance all you like, but as mentioned, some people need a car, but simply can’t afford the insurance.

When you can pick up an old banger for a couple of hundred quid, but pay more than ten times that to insure it – and be fairly confident that if there were an accident, the insurance company would just write it off anyway, and after an excess, you may not get anything back – it’s hardly any wonder that many people decide not to bother with insurance, is it?

For many people, it’s a bottomless pit of money that they know they will never benefit from, and the repeated increases, which we’re told are because of uninsured drivers, actually just make the problem worse.

Perhaps a new approach should be tried – for example, a levy on the drivers license, or on the tax disc, or even on fuel, which provides universal cover for injury/damage to 3rd parties, and nothing more. Effectively, that would mean that no one would be uninsured, and spread across the whole population of the UK, it would likely not actually be terribly expensive.

Then, people who want additional cover – for example, fire, theft, injury to themselves, fully comprehensive, and so forth, would buy that from their existing insurance companies, as they do now.

You could make it a requirement that you have cover for personal injury to yourself, to avoid the situation of young people not buying anything at all, and relying on the universal 3rd party cover. And yes, some of them would still avoid it, if the premiums were too high. But the people suffering as a result would be them, not the rest of us.

Of course, some of the more rabid in the car lobby will complain about any levy on anything, and it might take a lot of work or legislation to push premiums down, but I think something along those lines might actually be one way of solving the problem of uninsured drivers.

Certainly cranking up the cost of premiums isn’t going to solve it, and an ever harder pressed police force isn’t going to have time to check every vehicle on the streets.

Pedro Stephano says:
20 April 2011

The problem is that it is simply not cost effective to be insured in the minds of those who decide they can’t afford it. And the deterrent is not strong enough to make avoiding insurance risky. Hence if it costs a citizen £3200 to buy insurance, but £200 to buy the car and £200 to pay the fine if caught, what is one to do (purely on cost effectiveness grounds?). The chief issue is that 3rd party personal (the really important bit) is included in the whole package offered by insurance companies which is 3rd party personal + third party property + first party property (ie the insured’s car). This is all priced to be such that it’s almost not worth going Third Party only i.e. almost as expensive as Fully Comprehensive.
My proposal – make third party personal cheap, easy to buy and compulsory, and enforce it really hard with huge fines + vehicle confiscation + disqualification + any other realy heavy penalties possible to make it Socially Unacceptable to drive without it.
The second part of my proposal is to make it compulsory to have a recent (within one month) MOT prior to teh sale of ANY second hand vehicle. This would make the exchange at the cheaper end of the market more regulated and safer.


So responsibility has nothing to do with it? Total tosh!


Pedro, there is another arguement that £0.005 per litre be added to fuel, so 3rd party risk is state covered, which I personally do not agree with, the think with separate 3rd party personal is that those that don’t buy insurance is that they do not buy it, speed cameras don’t check insurance, policemen stopping cars does, how will it be enforced.

Richard, the comment responsibilty has nothing to do with it, is actually the whole point, some take responsibilty, buy insurance, maintain their car etc, yet if their children are hit by an uninsured driver then it is not the driver that sits beside the bedside for 6 weeks waiting for the child to come out of a coma, seeing the child with no hair, shaved and scarred from the operation to remove the top part of the skull untill the swelling goes down, it is the parents that sit taking responsibilty.

It is the parents that lose income, have to fight for recovery of funds. Think about it, having to find funds for food at hospital every day, for parking at the hospital car park, to pay child minders for your other children, to at least drive 47miles each way from home to the specialist hospital so you at least see your other children. Remember, you still have to buy food at home, pay your mortgage etc,

£130 a day extra a day for 44 days, how many families on already tight budgets can afford it.

Total tosh, I DO NOT think so.


To John and Pedro

You have misconstrued my post – I completely agree with you

As my old dad said when I first talked to him about riding or driving.

“If you can’t afford insurance – you can’t afford to drive” – no ifs no buts – there is no excuse.

I would like to see far more stringent penalties (and I’m not talking about someone that is literally a day or two past renewal) I want to see the cars crushed on first offence – automatic £3000 fine – or a three year prison sentence – license lost for five years – retest before new license issued – If driver is of foreign birth (including EU) deportation after sentence. The present level of punishment is insufficient.

The idea of automatic third party insurance by an extra tax on fuel is ludicrous. It would be a logistical nightmare getting compensation back.when one considers there are over 1 million uninsured drivers already – it would also simply increase the amount of fuel smuggled into the country above that already smuggled …..and it took me over six months to get my claim settled when the police crashed into my properly parked car at night while I was asleep.

In addition I get tired of the claim of “how hard done by the young are about insurance” remembering premiums are set on statistics and the need for the insurance company to make a profit,

Let me tell you of my life – I wanted to ride a bike – I bought a s/h frame for 7/6d (36p) from a local villager I found the rest of the parts on bomb sites – I constructed the cycle from scratch without help – I was 12 – I saved the money for this by selling striking butterflies and moths and Larvae for up to 6d each at school . I rode it for many years.

I wanted to drive – I couldn’t afford a car or it’s insurance – so I bought a 1928 Francis Barnet with Girder suspension and hand gear change for £5 – I could only afford Third party Fire and Theft at £35 – as I had no experience – I earned £2.50 a week – so to earn enough I started to do decorating – and simple house repairs at weekends or at night. I gained driving experience with no accidents and so earned no claims discounts – I bought better and better motorcycles over the next five years.

I wanted to drive a car – I bought a 1932 Hillman Minx with no synchromesh gear box.still with a TPFT insurance – transferred my NCB to the car making the insurance affordable as I was over 21 with no accidents – I took my test earlier and past it. insurance premiums increased but were affordable even though I was a student (I still did DIY and house repairs to support my car expenses) As income increased I bought better cars – Until I bought a new Mazda 323 when the accident repairs would have been high so I bought Fully Comprehensive Insurance my NCB was around 70% as I had never had an accident nor traffic offences.- This was not too good a car and so I bought a nearly new NiSSAN Bluebird after 4 years. This I had for 20 years until I bought a Hyundai Estate to carry my dogs in comfort.

As I said at the beginning – If you can’t afford the insurance – you can’t afford to drive a car – No excuses.

As an UN-Insured driver the driver deserves every thing the Law can throw at him/her – The trouble is far too many such people have paltry penalties imposed which are no deterrent at all.. The only way to stop it is to make the penalties far far more stringent – whether you are 17 or 70. – No Insurance – No car.

Pedro Stephano says:
20 April 2011

@Richard responsibility – yes it does. I’m responsible. That’s why I pay my insurance – which includes £30 to £50 for the irresponsibles. My plan would make sure that the irresponsibles pay. What’s your plan? What’s your proposal? How do we solve this mess? It obviously needs policing and regulation that is effective and cheap. Any ideas there from you Richard?


Pedro – Third party insurance is cheap (in comparison to other insurances for the same driver) and compulsory already – bearing in mind the insurance company uses statistics and the need of profit to set the cheap premium – but people are still not insured because they can get away with it – and they do otherwise there would not be over 1 million uninsured drivers – I want far more punitive punishment for not having insurance. Particularly imprisonment.