Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum by the Automobile Association (YND 01A)

  Several points arose during our oral evidence, and in conversation with others who were present, which I feel require me to provide some clarification to the Committee.


  The Committee devoted much time to exploring the suggestion of there being two million people driving in this country while not properly licensed. This point stems from a very broadly worded sentence in the AA written evidence—"This as yet unpublished study produced worrying results, suggesting that somewhere up to as many as two million drivers may possibly not have licences".

  This scoping study of unlicensed drivers was commissioned jointly by the AA Foundation for Road Safety Research and the Association of British Insurers. The AA's estimate of two million stems from the application of a multiplier of six to the number of drivers who are subject to court proceedings for driving licence offences. The six times multiplier used is reached by making comparisons with overseas and UK studies, and particularly the relationship between drivers without insurance and those who are prosecuted for insurance offences.

  Home Office data shows that some 377,000 people are subject to such court proceedings for unlicensed driving offences. However, we have since learned that some 160,000 of these proceedings are either dismissed or withdrawn, usually because drivers required to produce documents within seven days do not do so, therefore having proceedings commenced against them which are later dismissed or withdrawn when correct documents are produced. It is also the case that a proportion of convictions for driving licence offences relate to drivers who have driving licences, but for one reason or another fail to produce them and are subsequently found guilty of this offence.

  ¥These complications mean that our reference to two million uninsured drivers is a considerable over estimate. A realistic figure would be closer to 800,000, a figure which includes an element to take account of the fact that the convictions data used does not include those committed in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Additionally, among the limited sample of the scoping study, there is evidence of unlicensed drivers finding ways of circumventing the licence production system.

  The 800,000 figure can be put into perspective as being equivalent to the number of drivers passing their driving tests in each of the years leading up to the introduction of the theoretical test.

  In discussing unlicensed drivers, we have included three distinct groups of people: those who drive without licences; those who are disqualified from driving; and those who drive in breach of their provisional licence entitlement. The final group is particularly important.

  On behalf of the AA I must apologise for misleading the Committee on this issue.


  The Committee asked for information on average fines for driving without insurance, and I feel that the following table of data extracted from Offences relating to motor vehicles—England and Wales, 1997—Supplementary tables, published by the Home Office is the best available. This data refers to all vehicle insurance offences.
Up to £102,470
Over £10 up to £5022,255
Over £50 up to £10037,370
Over £100 up to £20060,961
Over £200 up to £40042,474
Over £400 up to £80022,516
Over £800460

  The average fine is £210, while the AA Insurance Index gives the realistic average cost of a comprehensive insurance policy as £275.


  The AA believes that a learner driver should be allowed to drive on a motorway when accompanied by a professional instructor. However, we do not believe that this should be compulsory, either as part of the test or as part of tuition. Our support for this is much more because experience as a learner could make new drivers feel more comfortable on motorways than because we feel it will reduce accidents.


  The AA sees any future hazard perception testing as an additional integral part of a computer based theoretical test, not as a third part of the driving test. Accordingly any cost increase should be marginal. We are concerned that any change to either the theoretical or practical test should be monitored for its effect on road safety, and that special care should be taken to ensure that the design of the test, and the mechanism for carrying it out does not pose particular difficulties to any group of potential drivers.

H T Morris

Manager Group Public Policy

18 June 1999

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