17,000 uninsured drivers on Norfolk's roads
Victoria LeggettAn estimated 17,000 uninsured drivers are flouting the law on Norfolk's roads - but police insist they are winning the battle against them. Statistics from the Motor Insurers' Bureau (MIB) last night revealed about 3pc of the 580,000 road users in the county are trying to get away without insuring their cars.Victoria Leggett
An estimated 17,000 uninsured drivers are flouting the law on Norfolk's roads - but police insist they are winning the battle against them.
Statistics from the Motor Insurers' Bureau (MIB) last night revealed about 3pc of the 580,000 road users in the county are trying to get away without insuring their cars.
In the north of Norwich, that figure jumps to almost 9pc - meaning an estimated 1,452 of the 16,516 drivers around Mile Cross and New Catton, are breaking the law - while in the Yarmouth and Caister area, 7.6pc could cause law-abiding road users a major headache if they crash into them.
But police statistics show, thanks to improved technology and a no-nonsense approach, an increasingly high number of uninsured drivers are being caught.
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And that crackdown could come just in time as insurers warn the recession may tempt more motorists to let their policies lapse as they try to cut back on their expenses.
The MIB, which helps compensate drivers involved in crashes with the uninsured, has based its figures on the number of claims it has received over the past ten years.
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The estimated 17,069 law-breakers in Norfolk considerably outnumber their neighbours in Suffolk - which has only 11,703 - although the figure for Cambridgeshire is higher - 19,424, or 3.7pc of all drivers.
It is thought uninsured drivers are nine times more likely to cause a crash while groups like the MIB and the AA believe a tendency break insurance laws is a strong sign of criminal behaviour in general.
But the totals for all three counties are below the national average, which is about 5pc, and the bureau is confident the figure is decreasing nationally.
Neil Drane, from the MIB, said: 'We have seen approximately a 13pc reduction in the number of claims presented to the bureau in the last three years.'
He said much of that reduction was down to a harsher approach by police - a view which is backed up by the number of drivers being penalised.
Over the past two years, the number of fixed penalty notices issued by Norfolk police for driving without insurance has more than tripled - jumping from just 238 in 2007 to 822 in 2008.
With that notice comes an instant fine of at least �200 and six driving-licence points. On top of that, thanks to legislation brought in within the past couple of years, police can now seize cars, landing the driver with an average bill of �120 to release it.
Sgt Paul Sturman, from Acle's road-policing department, said, faced with a bill of at least �320, motorists are unlikely to risk being caught again. He added: 'It can work prohibitively. A lot of cars are never reclaimed.'
The police's increased success is largely down to advances in technology and a better system for dealing with offenders which makes uninsured driving far more difficult to get away with.
Registration recognition cameras can automatically alert officers to an uninsured car, regardless of whether it has been pulled over or not.
Mr Sturman said: 'General police vehicles doing ordinary patrols have the facility to check vehicles as they pass through and we have cameras at fixed points throughout the county.'
A hotline between the police and the MIB means old tricks used to dodge fines no longer work.
In the past if a driver took out an insurance policy and cancelled it a month later, they may have got away with showing police the old papers when they were pulled over - but now all documents are double checked with the bureau to make sure they are still valid.
Andrew Howard, head of road safety for the AA, said he welcomed the progress being made against uninsured drivers.
But he warned the system could come under strain as the country moved deeper into recession and cash-strapped motorists saw avoiding car insurance as a way to cut down their bills.
He said: 'There will be a lot of people who will be driven to desperate situations to save money. The recession makes people criminally minded.'
However he agreed it was becoming an increasingly risky way to trim expenses and said proposals to change the rules for uninsured cars could make it even more costly.
The department of transport has suggested a change in legislation which would make it illegal to keep a vehicle without insurance, unless it has been declared off-road, just like the new tax laws which came into affect in 2004.
Treat it like any other accident. Collect as many details as possible, including make, model and registration number of the car, and the name, address and telephone number of the driver.
Takes notes about the damage to the other vehicle and the accident scene. If you have a camera, takes photos.
If there are any witnesses, get their contact details.
Report the accident to the police - any claim for compensation will need proof that an accident has taken place.
Contact your insurer. If you have comprehensive insurance, the repairs should be covered, although that could affect your no-claims discount. If your policy is only for third-party cover, your repairs will not be covered but your company will be able to advise you of your options.
Contact the Motor Insurers Bureau (www.mib.org.uk). It has an agreement with the government to compensate the victims of accidents with uninsured or untraced drivers.
According to the MIB, uninsured drivers are nine times more likely to cause crashes and are often involved in other crimes as well.
Uninsured drivers cost each law-abiding road user an extra �30 on their insurance premium.
In 2008, 81pc of people given penalty notices for driving without insurance in Norfolk were male.
About 32pc were aged 25 and under, including six 16-year-olds.
Meanwhile 59pc were between 26 and 50, while only 9pc were over 50.