By Ray Massey
Motorists whose insurance runs out and isn’t renewed on time face having their car clamped in their driveway, seized and destroyed under tough new rules laid before Parliament today
The new clamp-and-scrap powers are being given to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) by ministers and are a new weapon in the Government’s armoury against uninsured drivers.
The new system, called continuous insurance enforcement, goes fully live in June and means cars must be insured at all times – and no longer have to be spotted on the road to be clamped and seized.
The only exception is if the registered keeper makes an official declaration that the car is permanently off road and not being driven.
Motoring groups fear that innocent motorists who genuinely forget to insure their vehicle on time because they are on holiday or have an extended stay in hospital, will fall foul of the new rules which can also see drivers landed with a £100 fine.
But road safety minister Mike Penning insists drivers will be given a warning letter and a £100 fixed penalty notice before any car is clamped and seized from the driveway.
The Department for Transport said: ’Under Continuous Insurance Enforcement it will be an offence to keep an uninsured vehicle, rather than just to drive when uninsured. The regulations laid today will allow the DVLA to take action against those who ignore warnings to get their vehicle insured.’
’If the vehicle remains uninsured – regardless of whether the fine is paid – it could then be clamped, seized and destroyed. The regulations laid in Parliament today would give the DVLA the powers to take this action.’
AA head of public affairs Paul Watters said: ’Many otherwise innocent motorists face being unwittingly fined or clamped for doing little more than being forgetful or distracted by the normal business of life.
‘There must be some flexibility or leniency, otherwise this will become just another scam, like some cowboy parking ticket or clamping operations. It must not become a money spinner.’
The Transport Department said that under the new system the DVLA will work in partnership with the Motor Insurers’ Bureau to identify from their database vehicles which are uninsured.
The Department said: ’Motorists will receive a letter telling them that their vehicle appears to be uninsured and warning them that they will be fined unless they take action. If the keeper fails to insure the vehicle they will be given a £100 fine. If the vehicle remains uninsured – regardless of whether the fine is paid – it could then be clamped, seized and destroyed. The regulations laid in Parliament today would give the DVLA the powers to take this action.’
’Vehicles with a valid Statutory Off Road Notice (SORN) will not be required to be insured.’
The first insurance ‘advisory letters’ warning individuals that they ‘appear to be uninsured’ will be sent at the end of June following a publicity campaign to raise awareness of the Continuous Insurance Enforcement scheme.
The Motor Insurance Database (MID) will be used to identify registered keepers of vehicles that appear to have no insurance.
The penalty for driving without insurance is a maximum fine of £5,000 and six to eight penalty points. About 242,000 offenders are convicted for uninsured driving every year.
Measures already introduced in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 gave police improved access to the Motor Insurers’ Bureau database and powers to seize vehicles. In 2009 around 180,000 vehicles were seized.
AA Insurance said their own survey had shown that 6 out of 10 motorists were completely unaware of the changes that could see their car clamped and impounded from their driveway.
An AA/Populus study of nearly 13,000 AA members, an ‘extraordinary’ 59 per cent had not heard about the new law and of the balance who were aware of it, with four out of ten (38 per cent) saying they ‘don’t know what it means’.