CAR INSURANCE IN THE UK
Although petrol-powered motor vehicles have been on the British roads since the late 19th century, the car insurance industry took some time to develop, since it was not until 1930 that car insurance became compulsory. The Road Traffic Act of 1930 was drafted by officials at the Ministry for Transport once it became clear that the increased number of vehicles on the British roads was also linked to a rise in the number of accidents and fatalities. Four years prior to the approval of the 1930 act, statistical surveys showed that there had been nearly 5,000 fatal accidents on the UK roads, along with 124,000 car crashes. These figures led the authorities to develop a set of regulations that required UK drivers to have third party insurance before they took to the roads.
Nearly 300,000 people are employed in the insurance industry in the UK, which makes it the largest in Europe and the third largest in the world. According to the Association of British Insurers, the average household spends £600 a year on motor insurance. There are currently 23.8 million vehicles insured in the country, and approximately 3.5 million claims are handled every year, resulting in payouts of £7.1 billion a year. The average cost of a car insurance claim is in the region of £4500, whereas vehicle theft claim payouts average £2,600.
Car insurance in the UK: the legal framework
Currently, car insurance in the UK is governed by the Road Traffic Act of 1988. As per the original Act of 1930, British motorists are still required by law to have third party insurance that covers damage to other vehicles or properties, and injuries to other drivers or passersby.
Under the current legislation, all vehicles in the United Kingdom must be insured at least to third party levels, even in cases where they are not being driven. The only exception applies to vehicles that have been declared as being off the road. Failing to purchase car insurance is considered a serious offence which may result in the destruction of the vehicle, fines of up to £5000, penalty points, and permanent disqualification from driving.
The Road Traffic Act outlines the guidelines that apply to driving offences, protective measures and equipment, the roadworthiness of vehicles, licensing requirements, third party liabilities, and the general duties of drivers.
Motorists may be required to show written evidence of their insurance policy when stopped by the police. If drivers cannot provide the authorities with proof of insurance on the spot, they will be given seven days to do so. Failure to comply with this requirement will result in the vehicle being seized.
Insurance cover exclusions apply to vehicles that have been deemed unroadworthy, to stolen vehicles, to drivers without a valid driving license, to drivers using someone else's vehicle when they have not been included in the owner's policy, and to drivers involved in an accident for which they are partly to blame.
Car insurance policies in the United Kingdom
Motorists in the UK can choose among three main types of car insurance policies. Third party insurance is the legal minimum, but it must be noted that this type of motor insurance does not cover any damage caused to the policy holder's vehicle.
The second type of insurance available is third party, fire, and theft insurance (TFT).
Whereas third party, fire, and theft insurance only covers damage or injury caused by these events, comprehensive insurance will cover the costs of repairing a vehicle involved in a road accident, and in some cases it may also cover the full market value of the vehicle whenever repairs are not recommended or useful. In addition to the above, comprehensive insurance covers medical expenses, replacement of stolen, lost, or damaged vehicle contents, and accidental damage. Although premiums are higher than in TFT policies, the excess is lower at approximately £75. In some cases, comprehensive insurance policies will also cover the costs of legal expenses if the driver is involved in a collision.
In addition, motorists in the UK can benefit from guaranteed asset protection policies. These cover the costs related to a vehicle's value depreciation, as well any unpaid debts related to a vehicle that is stolen or written off. However, it must be noted that guaranteed asset protection policies cannot substitute regular insurance, as they should be considered an add-on.
Further information on car insurance
To find out detailed information on car insurance in the United Kingdom, visit the following websites: