More than 1,000 metropolitan police officers working with the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) seized 308 uninsured vehicles as part of London-wide operation Cubo on Wednesday 5 June 2013.
The MIB, which pays claims caused by uninsured drivers, had its officers with police in Newham, one of the country’s worst areas for uninsured motorists. The Zebra tagged along to the stop site at West Ham United’s ground at Upton Park.
There, the cops seized 18 vehicles for having no insurance. Many others were stopped for vehicle offences, such as having illegally tinted windows. Drivers also faced penalties for motoring offences, such as using hand-held mobiles while driving or not having valid driving licences.
Motor Insurance Database
The MIB runs the Mid – the MID, which stands for Motor Insurance Database. Insurers have to notify all motor insurance changes to the Mid within seven days – but 90% are now registered within 48 hours and many are notified on the same day. The MIB can fine insurers up to £500,000 pounds if they fail to report on time, or accurately.
The MIB sends about 4,000 letters out a day to vehicle owners who appear to have no insurance. Its call centre in Milton Keynes handles calls from those people and handle calls on a special police helpline providing more detailed information to the police.
For the police, the staff will also call individual insurers to check exact details and ask extra questions. They provide a detailed reply within 15 minutes. On the day, the MIB’s police liaison officer, Dean Smith – a former senior policeman and one-time traffic officer – was in Newham with direct access to the database helping to train new officers in how to use it.
Number plate-reading technology
The police were also using their number plate reading technology to spot vehicles apparently belonging to drivers who owed money through county court judgments. These were steered to a waiting bailiff, who, if they could not pay their debts, seized their car to be sold to raise the money owed.
To avoid losing their prized vehicle some people would claim the car was not theirs and that they had borrowed it. This was so the bailiffs could not seize it. The MID would then be used to help identify if the driver was the person named as the insured and registered keeper of the car.
Incorrectly insured means uninsured
Many of the uninsured vehicles that were seized did have insurance but not the right type of cover. One –being driven by a bailiff who had only just qualified – was being used for work but the insurance was only for social, domestic and pleasure (SDP). SDP is enough for going to college but commuting to and from work is a separate category and driving for work is a third.
Another commercial vehicle was insured for deliveries in line with the driver’s work but he had collected a cargo of scrapped commercial kitchen units and was taking them for commercial waste disposal. This was as a favour to a friend. His insurer confirmed they had not covered him for transporting commercial waste, which would have attracted a higher premium.
Other vehicles had insurance but in the name of someone else, or at a different address. Others had bought insurance but had failed to pay the second instalment or failed to send in confirmation of their no claims bonus and the insurer had cancelled. It doesn’t matter if you think you are insured, if you’re not, you’re not.
Police seize about 140,000 vehicles a year because they have no insurance. That means six penalty points on your licence and a fine. On the day we were out the government announced that fine would increase from £200 to £300. You will also have to pay to get your vehicle back.
Others who were caught
One driver was pretending to be his brother, in whose name the vehicle was correctly insured. The police eventually had the driving licence photos of the pair sent over. Driving without insurance was just one of the offences he faced.
The highlight for me was one of the drivers with heavily tinted windows. The law says you may have a 30% tint on your windscreen and front side windows. In other words, 70% of normal light must get through. Using a light meter, traffic officers recorded that just 14% of light was getting through. At this level it was deemed a dangerous vehicle.
The driver was fined and given six points on his licence and made to remove the thin film on the windows that added the tint. He was allowed to leave the tint on the rear windows and promptly reversed into some police bollards because he could not see out of the rear window. The police were very professional in not laughing (too much).
These police crackdowns work. Last year a similar Met operation confiscated a record 580 uninsured vehicles and Newham officers reckoned they would nab about 60. The numbers have been coming down each month as uninsured drivers learn that they will be caught.