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Penalty points – are you telling porkies?

Millions of drivers are not owning up to driving licence points, new research has revealed.

Nearly one in five motorists (18%) would not inform their insurer if they picked up penalty points while driving, according to a study by RAC Insurance.

If true, potentially putting nearly seven million drivers are at risk of holding invalid insurance, as well as future prosecution.

The data also shows that a quarter (25%) of motorists surveyed, who already have penalty points, did not inform any organisation when they received them.

Whether they did this knowingly or unwittingly, it effectively means more than 700,000 motorists could now be driving without valid car insurance.

The implications of not declaring penalty points are serious with motorists risking having a worthless insurance policy, and hefty penalties from the police.

If they were to be involved in an accident they could then face further penalty points, an unlimited fine and be disqualified from driving. The police could even seize and potentially destroy the uninsured vehicle.

Problems could also arise should a driver need to make a car insurance claim for any other reason – an insurer could point blank refuse the claim, cancel or void the policy or immediately increase the premium. If the policy is cancelled or voided this could also affect a motorist’s ability to take out insurance with other providers.

If a motorist drives as part of their job, they might also be expected to declare any penalty points, with some employers demanding a full, clean licence depending on the occupation. Yet the RAC Insurance research found only around one in 10 motorists surveyed (13%) would plan on informing their employer if they received points in the future.

“Our research points to one of two likely scenarios: either motorists are simply forgetting to inform the relevant authorities when they receive points, or they are intentionally not telling them in order to keep their insurance premium lower,” said RAC Insurance’s Mark Godfrey.

“In either case, the result is hundreds of thousands of drivers on our roads who are effectively uninsured by default. This could have very serious, and indeed costly implications should they be involved in an accident, and could cause no end of problems should they need to make an insurance claim themselves.”

The DVLA, which holds data on each motorist’s penalty points, launched a joint initiative called MyLicence with the Motor Insurers’ Bureau in late 2014, to combat fraud.

This gives insurers automatic access to the last five years of a motorist’s driving history, including points, if a motorist provides their driving licence number.

However, the system is a voluntary one and not all insurers will insist on a driving licence number being provided, so in many circumstances a motorist can just choose to declare points and convictions when applying for an insurance policy.

“While there is currently no requirement on motorists to provide their licence number when requesting a quote, this may well change in the future as insurers realise the benefits of taking endorsement data directly from the DVLA, rather than relying on a motorist’s word.

“In the meantime though, the message to motorists is clear – not declaring points is simply not worth the risk should you get caught or are involved in an accident,” added Mark Godfrey.

About Gareth Herincx

Gareth is a versatile journalist, copywriter and digital editor who's worked across the media in newspapers, magazines, TV, teletext, radio and online. After long stints at the BBC, GMTV and ITV, he now specialises in motoring.

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