It is estimated that up to 2,100 of Westmeath’s motorists could be driving without insurance, according to a new study.
According to Brian McNelis, director of general services at the Irish Brokers Association, “There are 35,700 licensed private cars in Westmeath and it’s estimated that 2,100 of these could be uninsured.
“What the general public in Westmeath may not know is that these uninsured drivers could be indirectly costing them an additional €30 on their annual car insurance premiums.”
Between 5 and 6 per cent of the Irish population are thought to be going without motor insurance, and the Irish Brokers Association has called on the State to confiscate the cars of those who drive without insurance as they believe that the current penalty mechanism isn’t working.
The representative body says that those who drive without insurance should consider the high penalties for themselves and for others if they are involved in an accident and that where someone is found to be driving an uninsured vehicle it should be impounded immediately and potentially sold or crushed.
Figures show that 2,286 claims payments were made by the Motor Insurer’s Bureau of Ireland (MIBI ) in 2010 totalling €58.9m in claims compensation, legal, and medical costs caused by uninsured and untraced drivers.
Claims are paid by the MIBI, which is 100 per cent funded by the motor insurers and the funds to pay for such claims come out of the insurance premiums paid by other drivers - approximately €30 per driver.
“We feel that the current penalties are not acting as a sufficient deterrent and would urge compliant drivers to report those that don’t have insurance as they are ultimately paying their insurance for them,” said Mr McNelis.
Motor insurance offences are punishable by a fine of up to €2,500, disqualification of one year or more for a first offence and two years or more for a second offence, and, at the discretion of the court, a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months, though these maximum penalties are rarely imposed. Where the court decides not to impose a disqualification, drivers convicted of a first offence of driving without insurance will incur 5 penalty points on their licence record in addition to any other penalty imposed by the court.
Mr McNelis concluded, “However, if claims grow, so too will the amount insurers need to contribute to the MIBI... which means that these increased costs will be borne by consumers in general. This is unfair on those who are compliant and pay annually for their motor insurance”.