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UK: Insurance Company to Ignore License Points
Competitive pressures likely to force UK insurance companies to stop raising rates on drivers who receive speed camera tickets.

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Excessive speed camera ticketing in the UK has led a major insurance company to announce this week that it will ignore driver's license penalty points when setting rates. Swinton Insurance, which has two million customers, is seeking a competitive advantage by offering lower rates to the safe drivers who receive automated tickets for driving just a few miles per hour over the speed limit.

"Pointed drivers are no longer automatically penalized at Swinton as a result of the increase in the number of motorists now saddled with penalty points," the company stated in a news release. "The move reflects a change in attitude by the insurance industry as the estimated number of pointed motorists tops six million."

For a decade, raising rates on millions of drivers each year had poured billions in additional profit into insurance company coffers. Swinton's move is likely to force the rest of the industry to follow suit. Road safety advocate Paul Smith, founder of Safe Speed, argues that this is an example of what he calls the "collateral damage" of speed camera policy.

"Clearly the Swinton announcement means that we are giving out fines and points to drivers at random," Smith said. "If we gave fines only to risky drivers then the risk would be clear in insurance companies' crash statistics."

Under the old system, an 18-year-old London motorist would pay as much as £1250 (US $2470) extra every year to insure 1.4l Renault Clio, a car with just 98 horsepower, after receiving three speed camera tickets. A survey last year estimated the annual insurance company profit from camera tickets at £375 million (US $740 million) on top of the £135 million (US $265 million) motorists pay to the government in fines.

"The penalty points system has been of very significant importance to road safety," Smith said. "It just goes to prove that speed camera fines are pointless."

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