One of the first complaints a driver will make about owning a vehicle is how expensive it can be. Whether you finance a vehicle or buy it outright, the costs of frequent services, repairs and tax is enough to leave anyone penniless without even factoring in one of the biggest expenses: car insurance.
Particularly for new and inexperienced drivers, a fully comprehensive policy could be costing you around £2,000 a year – leaving many with a very bitter taste after shelling out £300 for that rusty third-hand Micra! Not as sweet a deal as you thought after all!
Unfortunately for your bank account, it is essential that you have an insurance policy in place that covers, as a bare minimum, damage to a third party.
The risks of driving without insurance are serious – if accepting a fixed penalty, the starting point for driving without third party insurance is six penalty points and a fine of £300 however this could increase if it is ultimately dealt with at Court. This is dangerous territory for all new drivers as, under the Road Traffic (New Drivers) Act 1995, if you incur six penalty points within the first two years of holding a full UK driving licence, your licence would be revoked and you would have to re-take your driving tests. This means that you MUST NOT accept that fixed penalty offer and instead elect a hearing at the Magistrates’ Court if you want a chance at keeping your driving licence.
One of the biggest concerns about driving without insurance is that is it a strict liability offence. This means that the law is black and white – whether you believed you were insured or not, if you do not have insurance then you are guilty of this offence. This is why is it essential that you do not leave this responsibility entirely to someone else and that you make reasonable enquiries to ensure that the appropriate car insurance is in place by reading the policy carefully, regardless of whether you are the policy holder or only a named driver.
If you have taken reasonable steps to check that you are covered on an insurance policy and yet, for reasons outside of your control, you are caught driving without insurance then you may be able to present a special reasons argument. This could apply in situations where your policy was cancelled without your knowledge or where you have been misled into believing you were insured. See the following scenario in which special reasons may be appropriate:
“Emma had been with the same insurance company for the last four years and her policy had been on automatic renewal. Her details were correct and she had the funds in her account for the direct debit. Emma checked her bank account and could see that her direct debit payment had been taken however, for some unknown reason, the insurance company cancelled her policy. The paperwork informing her of the cancellation was sent to her old address despite her details being up to date. Emma was caught driving without insurance.”
The upshot of this argument is that, if successful, the Court can use its discretion and impose no penalty or a penalty more appropriate to the circumstances. Common examples of arguments that WOULD NOT amount to special reasons are:
- Assuming that your new insurance policy covers you to drive other vehicles without checking it just because this benefit was included in your old policy.
- Simply failing to open a letter or email, without good reason, that has informed you that your policy has been or is going to be cancelled, particularly if you have not checked your bank account to see whether your direct debit payment has been made.
- Forgetting to renew your policy, even if this is only by a day or two.
If you have been caught driving without insurance and need expert legal advice, contact our leading motorist defence solicitors on 0115 910 6239