Seven per cent of Irish drivers have had damage done by an uninsured driver

No-one likes paying bills especially when they are compulsory. Motor insurance is a classic grudge purchase. It is resented and resisted. People tend not to have any loyalty to a particular company and will do whatever they can to lower the cost.

Which is all fine but there are people who take it a step further and choose not to pay at all. This is illegal and we should not have any sympathy for those who do it because they effectively raise the cost for the rest of us.

The AA asked motorists recently whether they have ever had to deal with damage done to their car by an uninsured driver. Out of a sample of 9,800 drivers, seven per cent said that at some stage this had happened to them.

The number was much the same right across the country although it does seem to be slightly worse in border counties. The border itself probably contributes. Northern Irish registered cars have a tendency to behave badly on this side because of a perception that they can’t be pursued. Before we get high and mighty about that, the exact same problem exists in reverse on the Northern side.

It is a high number but it does not really surprise me. It is difficult to put an exact number on uninsured drivers because they are below the radar, so to speak. Industry estimates put it at somewhere above five per cent and inevitably that tends to be worse in recessionary times.

There are some people who wind up uninsured for honest reasons. For example you might switch insurance company but forget to get your spouse included on the new policy, or you might assume that your insurance covers you in a different car when in fact your policy excludes this.

These things are forgivable. But the bigger problem is a reckless minority out there who know they are uninsured and are willing to risk it. These guys are hurting all of us. In fact we have calculated that they add anywhere between €30 and €40 to the cost of everyone else’s car insurance.

When an uninsured driver causes damage the claim is paid by the Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland. Slightly fancy name but all it means is a body that acts like an insurance company when there isn’t proper insurance in place. Their website, www.mibi.ie, is very helpful.

Less serious, but just as annoying, is the problem of people damaging or denting your parked car and not owning up. It might be in a supermarket car park or on the street somewhere but again it is really common. In our survey 27 per cent of people said that at some stage in their driving careers they had found damage on their car caused by some so-and-so who didn’t own up or leave a note, they just scarpered.

There is a colleague of mine in here who is firmly of the opinion that we should restore the death penalty to deal with this heinous offence. Once again it appears to be a little bit worse in border counties than elsewhere. Hard to know why but it seems to be true.

Dents, scrapes, dings and broken wing mirrors are not life threatening but they are expensive. If you do damage someone’s car by accident you really should own up. Report it to the car park attendant, the supermarket or whoever and leave a note on the car that you damaged. Failing that, report it to the Gardai yourself.

That is the honest thing to do of course but it is also a wise move. In a world of camera phones, cctv and instant messaging it is highly likely that somebody noticed. If you have ‘done a runner’ then you might think that you are free and clear right up to the point when a Garda rings on your doorbell.

Then you are in much worse trouble, and you are very unlikely to have any sympathy from the population of hard-pressed motorists who do not enjoy having to pay their bills any more than you do.

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