Karl McCartney is the Member of Parliament for Lincoln.
A sense of fair play, and a sense that those who do not abide by the rules will be dealt with, is very much part of the way we do things in Britain. Anything that undermines this undermines the society we live in, and undermines our confidence in it. And it does not have to be the big issues, it can be in the scheme of the things, the smaller and more personal issues that have the biggest effect.
One of these issues is the problem of uninsured drivers, and those drivers (who are often the same) who deliberately cause small crashes and then scam people by claiming exorbitant amounts by lying about the damage that had been inflicted. The latter is not helped by insurance companies and some in the legal industry who are happy to play along with it. It is an issue that was discussed in Parliament in the last week and I am determined the issue should not sit on the shelf.
How can it be right and fair that with insurance increasing by 13% over the past year and a 40% rise the year before, average fines for people caught driving while uninsured have actually gone down?
In 2008, the average fine across England and Wales was £229, yet in 2010 it was a paltry £200. With the average comprehensive cover costing £843, no wonder the 105,000 people who were fined last year thought it was a risk worth taking. The weak penalties for breaking the law compared to the cost of complying with the law are actually encouraging lawlessness. No wonder all legal drivers pay an extra £40 per year on their car insurance to cover the cost of those who break the law.
It is no better when it comes to those who fall victim to car insurance scammers, and I speak with bitter experience, as this year I had to deal with a claim made for £16,500 when a car stopped suddenly in front me and I slightly damaged the bumper. The court threw it out as, amongst others things, the car owners claimed £1,000 for a recovery charge when they actually drove away. After the hearing that I won, it was revealed the scammers had tried it on, successfully, six times in the last five years from the same registered address of the vehicle. As I write, they are probably trying it on some other poor soul and probably supported by "no win no fee" lawyers and an insurance company.
When I asked local people in the Lincoln area for their views on uninsured drivers, they said the fines should be far higher (over 50% want the fine to be a minimum £900 or more), and 77% said if someone causes a serious accident while driving uninsured they should go to prison. There are additional solutions and, while I produced a report with ten ways forward, three of them were:
- An insurance sticker in every windscreen that proves a car is insured, just like the tax disc
- The minimum fine in each area being the double the average insurance cost in that area for the age and gender of the person caught
- Those making false insurance vehicle claims that reach the courts to be prosecuted and actively pursued by the relevant police force
As a country steeped in fair play, we should no longer tolerate the fact that there is a "blind spot" in our justice system, where not only are those that openly flout the "laws of the road" doing so with small fines, they are almost encouraged to do it by the weak punishments they receive. Justice applies to the law-abiding car driver as much as it does anyone else, and it is about time it did.