Every year numerous minor changes are made to the rules of the road, and the legal obligations of car owners, which then mean the driving theory test and the practical test need to be updated. If you’re learning to drive, stay clued up on the rules by revising online – click here for a useful website.
This year the alterations include the SORN notification becoming valid until the car is sold, taxed or scrapped, and the tax disc being replaced by an electronic system, meaning you no longer need to display it on your windscreen.
The SORN notification is an interesting one – it used to be valid for only 12 months after which you would have to renew it, or the car would be considered in-use and you would need to have it insured. The reason why it’s important to register your vehicle as off-road when it’s not being used for a substantial length of time is that the government wants to clamp down on the problem of uninsured drivers, which are thought to cost the car industry around £500 million a year, and add £30 onto the cost of each standard insurance policy to boot.
In an effort to reduce this problem, the net is swung wide so that any car without insurance can be subject to a fine of up to £1,000, or potentially be destroyed. And even if you haven’t used your car in months, if it’s not registered as SORN, you could be caught up in that net.
Why you need insurance
The vast majority of cars in the UK are in use on a regular basis, usually daily for the commute or school-run. There are various legal obligations you need to comply with at all times, one of which is having at least 3rd party insurance to cover damage to any vehicle or property you may have a collision with. If you are caught driving without a valid insurance policy to drive that specific car then you can receive an automatic fine of up to £300 and 6 penalty points on your license, or even go to court over the matter.
That’s your first danger. Secondly of course, any damage to you or your vehicle is not covered either, and if you use your car for work, if you have a crash and you’re not covered, that could leave you in a very sticky situation.
Lies, lies and statistics
It’s thought that over 2 million British car insurance policies may actually be invalid because the holder has been less than truthful, or made a mistake, when applying. Apparently 60% of people do it because they want to save money on their premiums – an understandable motivation, especially if you’ve driven well for years, never made a big claim, but still see your premiums creeping ever higher, but it’s a false economy.
Because insurance companies are naturally going to check the details of a policy thoroughly in the event of a large claim, and if you said your car is parked off-road at night and it’s not, or you say you have an immobilizer fitted but you don’t, and it gets stolen or broken into, then you’re liable to get no pay out.
It’s common for people to invalidate their insurance completely unintentionally, and one of the easiest ways to make this slip is by not notifying your provider when you change address. Insurance policies are calculated using data from various sources, one of which is the area in which you live. So if you move from a quiet suburban area where car crime is minimal to somewhere much livelier, with busy roads, badly-lit parking areas and lots of incidents of theft, then of course the risks get much higher. Your policy and premiums must reflect this, and if the insurer is not aware of your move then it can consider any claim invalid and reject it.
Is your policy valid?
One of the easiest ways to check your car is insured is to enter your registration number into the Motor Insurance Database website at www.askMID.com, but you still need to check the details of your policy and ensure you’re compliant. Is your car taxed? Does it have a valid MOT? Are all the drivers on the policy and are all their personal details, including address and number of points on their licenses, correct? All of these things can play a role in whether your claim is accepted or rejected, so be sure to check your policy regularly.