Friday, July 27, 2012

Driving without insurance - Driving in the UK

Why driving without insurance could cost you much more than money- Driving in the UK

Under UK law, it is compulsory for anybody who uses, or permits a vehicle to be used on a road or other public place, to hold valid insurance against third party risks. The onus is on the person using the vehicle to comply with the Road Traffic Act and ensure that a valid insurance policy is in place.


Driving without insurance is an “absolute” offence. This means that if the vehicle is in use, and there is no valid insurance policy in place, the offence has been committed. Mistake or ignorance will be no defence. For example, if an insurance policy has lapsed and the user of the vehicle has not been notified, while failure to inform the user may be presented as a mitigating factor, the user will still have committed the offence. The same applies to allowing others to use your vehicle, or using somebody else’s vehicle on the basis that you are covered under a fully comprehensive insurance policy. The user/owner of the vehicle is required to ensure that these situations are covered by the insurance policy held. For example, if you drive somebody else’s car under the belief that you are covered by your policy, but you are in fact mistaken, you are guilty of driving without insurance, and the owner of the car has committed an offence by permitting their vehicle to be used without insurance.

Driving without insurance is considered a serious offence, and accordingly, being found guilty can have serious consequences which extend beyond monetary penalties. As discussed above, the absolute nature of the offence of driving without insurance means that an offender is unlikely to avoid punishment. Typically, somebody caught driving without insurance will receive 6-8 penalty points on their driving licence, as well as a fine, which could be up to £5000. Driving bans can also be issued for anybody using a vehicle without valid insurance. This could result in disqualification from driving for a period of 28 days, although this period could be substantially longer for repeat offenders. Police are able to perform checks on a vehicle’s insurance cover at the road side. They are entitled to seize vehicles which are found to be uninsured, and to charge the owner for removal of the vehicle from the road and subsequent storage costs.

Clearly, disqualification from driving or having a vehicle impounded can have a significant disruptive impact on both people’s working and personal lives. However, the consequences of driving without insurance can potentially be far graver. Under the provisions of the Road Safety Act 2006, an uninsured driver who is involved in an accident resulting in a fatality can be sentenced to up to two years in prison. The most important point to note about this is that the uninsured driver need not have been driving carelessly or dangerously. Simply driving without insurance and being involved in an accident which causes a death could result in the uninsured driver facing a criminal conviction and a custodial sentence.

This post was written on behalf of Pannone a UK law firm with dedicated motoring solicitors.

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