Driving without insurance: what are the risks?

It is estimated that up to 1 million drivers throughout England and Wales are driving without vehicle insurance. According to the Motor Insurers' Bureau, over 26,000 injuries were caused by uninsured drivers in 2018. What is a lack of insurance? What are the obligations regarding car and motorcycle insurance? What are the penalties and consequences in the event of an accident? Learn all about a situation that you should absolutely avoid!
Driving without insurance: what are the risks?
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What is a lack of insurance?

You are considered to be in default of insurance when you do not have an insurance policy compulsory by law. In the UK, every vehicle owner must take out an appropriate insurance policy. Third-party insurance is the legal minimum, which only covers the damages or injuries caused to other people, cars, animals or property. It does not cover any additional costs, like the repair of your own vehicle.

What are the obligations?

The obligation of compulsory UK car insurance was introduced by law in the Road Traffic Act of 1930. Owners of a motor vehicle must be insured with third-party liability, i.e., coverage for bodily and property damages caused to others. This is the lowest level of coverage. It only protects you and your passengers against damages caused to others. It includes the damages to other drivers or victims (third parties), their vehicles and property damage that covers lampposts, walls, etc. Liability insurance does not cover damages to your own car.

Good to know: in England, Wales and Scotland, you do not need to insure your car if it remains off the road and is property registered as inactive (SORN). The rule is different in Northern Ireland and referred to as the ‘continuous insurance enforcement’ regulation.

What are the penalties for offenders?

Failure to take out insurance is an offence that carries heavy penalties. It’s illegal to drive a vehicle on the road or in a public place without the minimum of third-party insurance. Not only must the car be insured, but the driver must also have the correct insurance to drive it. Drivers can receive six penalty points and a no-limit fine if caught driving an uninsured vehicle. If the case goes to court, the uninsured driver also risks the revoking of their driving license. In some cases, the police also have the power to seize or destroy the driver’s uninsured vehicle.

Good to know: If you’re in an accident that causes damage or injury to others, you must provide your name, address and vehicle registration number to anyone with ‘reasonable grounds’ (e.g., the insurance company). The accident must be reported to your insurance provider, even if you do not intend to file a claim.

What are the consequences of an accident?

If you’re in an accident with someone uninsured, you should tell the police right away. Your insurance company will able to provide you with further advice. Suppose you are a victim of an uninsured accident or a hit-and run-driver. In that case, you might also be eligible for compensation. In case your property or body was injured by an uninsured driver, you may be able to claim a payment from the Motor Insurers’ Bureau.

It’s against the law to drive on public roads without the basic level of compulsory insurance in the UK. Beyond coverage for third parties, you can also add protection against fire and theft. Drivers can also opt to take out a comprehensive insurance policy, which covers damages to their own vehicle.

Police use a number-plate recognition camera, so they will know whether or not your car is insured. Suppose you’re stopped and asked to present your documents. In that case, you have seven days to provide the police with an up-to-date insurance certificate, which must have been valid when you were initially stopped!