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10/1/2005
UK to Create Massive Government Insurance Database
A massive UK database of automobile registration and insurance will be used for a large-scale insurance ticket operation.

Minister Stephen Ladyman
A new UK government proposal would give police unprecedented access to private insurance information in order to issue more tickets for insurance violations. Road Safety Minister Stephen Ladyman offered amendments to the government's Road Safety Bill that would create a new paperwork offense -- registering a vehicle without insurance. Current law only makes it a crime to drive without insurance. The proposal would enforce this provision by creating a giant government registration and insurance database -- anything that does not appear to match up becomes a potential crime. Consequently, the legislation would also require all off-road vehicles to be registered with the government.

"This new measure will be coupled with new police powers to electronically spot and ultimately to seize and destroy cars without insurance," Ladyman said.

In 2002, the UK government generated £4.4 million (US $7.8 million) in insurance ticket revenue with an average fine of £152. The maximum available penalty for the crime is £5000 (US $8800). The government has recently expanded its authority to include seizing and crushing automobiles driven by uninsured motorists. The crackdown will further expand in November as police nationwide deploy Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras to scan every passing car on the road to identify vehicles to ticket or seize. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency has begun an experiment with RFID-enabled license plates that broadcast license plate and vehicle information to make it even easier for police to issue insurance citations and speed camera tickets.

Critics, however, argue that the system will not work because the majority of uninsured vehicles are not registered properly and finding them by relying on databases will not work. Some 31 percent of driving registration records have been found inaccurate.

"Paperwork approaches to such problem make more and more people decide to work outside the system," said Paul Smith, founder of the Safe Speed road safety campaign. "And they tend to have the side effect of increasing the problem."

The Association of British Insurers called the proposal "excellent news" because it would increase the number of people buying insurance.

Source: No hiding place for uninsured drivers as police get to see files (Edinburgh Evening News (UK), 9/30/2005)

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