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UK To Require Auto Insurance For Race Cars, Wheelchairs
UK government reluctantly proposes to make auto insurance mandatory for any vehicle on private roads in response to European court ruling.

Motorized vehicles
British automotive hobbyists will soon have to buy auto insurance to cover that project car on blocks in their garage, even though the vehicle is not going anywhere any time soon. A sweeping expansion of the Department for Transport (DfT) compulsory insurance requirements is expected to take effect later in the year. It will apply to entirely new categories of vehicles, including farm tractors and combines, motorized wheelchairs, riding lawnmowers, golf carts and the bumper cars at a carnival. Even top Formula One racers will have to insure their multi-million-dollar rides that are never driven on public roads. The rules were designed to comply with European Union directives, and the DfT is not happy about it.

"The challenge government is facing at the moment arises from a judgment by the European Court of Justice which was a complete game-changer as far as motor insurance is concerned," UK Undersecretary for Transport Andew Jones explained in a DfT report last month. "We were disappointed with the judgment which interpreted the Motor Insurance Directive in a way that neither we, nor many of our counterparts across Europe, expected or desired."

Although British voters last June approved the Brexit referendum, European Union court rulings hold the force of law until the UK withdrawal is complete -- a process that could take years. A 2009 EU law makes automobile insurance compulsory. It was applied to the case Damijan Vnuk v. Zavarovalnica Triglav, in which Vnuk, a Slovenian, fell off a ladder after a tractor backed into it. The tractor, of course, was not insured and Vnuk had 15,944 euros (US $16,990) worth of medical bills that needed to be paid. The EU judges insisted that vehicles of any type, running or not, would have to be insured to prevent a similar incident from happening in the future.

The DfT is opening a consultation to find ways to reduce the number of vehicles affected by the EU directive and to develop a "sensible" enforcement standard given the circumstances. British officials see little point in requiring insurance for "motorized childrens's toys." They are even more concerned about the impact on the £10 billion (US $12 billion) generated annually by the motorsports industry.

"The UK government wants to see more authorized and well-run motor sport racing, including on closed roads, not a vibrant industry crippled by new burdens," the DfT report explained. "Not only would the cost of the insurance policy prove prohibitive, if indeed the activity was insurable at all, but any substantial increase in the cost of participating in the sport could have serious negative consequences for an industry that is a substantial contributor to the economy."

Currently, the penalty for keeping an uninsured vehicle is a £300 (US $375) fine and six penalty points. The DfT is interested in lowering the penalty for low-risk vehicles, such as toys and mobility scooters. The DfT also supports efforts to amend EU law to reduce the scope of the mandatory insurance law to places where "the public has access." The DfT intends to put a time limit that will jettison the rule once the UK fully withdraws from the EU.

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