Concern over rise in uninsured drivers

Insurers have conceded they are largely powerless to prevent an uptick in uninsured drivers after the Motor Insurers’ Bureau reported the number of motorists without insurance had ‘plateaued out’ after a decade of steep decline, Post Online has reported.

MIB CEO Ashton West told Post that from the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2014 there has been an increase in both untraced and uninsured claims received by his organisation.

He added that a combination of several factors, some of which are outside the MIB’s control, have but the brakes on previous year-on-year reductions in uninsured driving figures.

Ashton said, ‘We’ve halved the number of uninsured drivers from around two million to one million and we believe that it’s still possible to go below that, but there is more that needs to be done.’

Although certain factors remain outside the MIB’s control, such as the lower price of petrol leading to more car journeys, Ashton believes that a reduced police presence and the bureau’s lack of media ac-tivity over the last two years have made the biggest contribution to a recent lack of significant reduc-tions.

He said, ‘There’s no question that police cuts have affected the situation. Not only have we seen the number of officers falling but we’ve also seen the number of seizures falling. In 2010 there were roughly 137,000 seizures and in 2014 there were 105,000 – that’s a very large reduction.’

West continued, ‘The final factor is that for about two years we have not produced any messaging or media campaigns so we need to change that and are planning to do so.’

There are plans for two media campaigns to be launched later this year, Ashton said, as he conceded the MIB would ‘probably not have [launched a campaign] if the figures had not flattened out’.

He noted the similarities between the DVLA’s experience when it stopped its media campaigns and saw a rise in unlicensed and taxed vehicles and the current situation that the MIB has noticed.

‘When you take your foot off the accelerator, then things start to unwind,’ Ashton said.

Paul Wilyman, motor underwriting manager at Covéa, has called for heavier penalties for uninsured drivers but admitted there is little that insurers can do to reverse the trend.
He said, ‘Some people won’t ever buy insurance. There is always going to be a section of people that are willing to flout the law.’

Paul also suggested high rates may be partly to blame for creating a situation where some people are unable to buy policies and are forced to drive uninsured.

He said, ‘As premiums rise, more and more people do not buy insurance. Rating is becoming more so-phisticated and insurers can refine what they want to write as a result. It will be difficult for some peo-ple that fall outside of that to get insurance.’

However, he added that ‘people know full well that they should buy insurance’.

Michael Lee, managing director of insurer services at Hastings, told Post that those drivers who would have been classed as uninsured in the past are now likely to be tagged as ‘pseudo-insured’ – people that have misrepresented data about themselves to buy policies over the internet.

He said, ‘At the same time as the boom in aggregators, the industry was cracking down on uninsured drivers and that gave those people the chance to buy insurance with incorrect information.’

Incidents involving people that have bought policies with such information would not be included in the MIB’s data on uninsured drivers, which could have contributed to the decline in the MIB’s data over several years, Michael suggested.

Michael agreed there is little that insurers can do to break through and persuade this section of society to buy insurance policies for their vehicles.

He said, ‘There will always be people that are willing to break the law and by that definition these peo-ple have a high appetite for risk.’

Michael added that ‘tougher penalties are one way to go’ to stamp out the problem of uninsured driv-ing.

Martin Milliner, claims director at LV, praised the work of the MIB in reducing the number of uninsured drivers, but noted that cuts to the police force may result in a future increase.

He said, ‘The police force has faced massive cost challenges and the number of traffic cops in England and Wales has been cut by 23% in the last four years – with some areas seeing cuts of up to 76%. We don’t expect to see uninsured driving increase overnight but there is potentially a problem if we don’t have enough police enforcing the law on the roads.’