Back in 2005, the UK’s Labour administration announced that it would be seizing and crushing the cars of people who drove without being insured. This week, ministers in the new Coalition government are to go further even than this, saying that anyone who merely keeps an uninsured vehicle faces having it seized and crushed.
Such proposals show how tentative a grip our politicians have on commonsense, and on justice. Commonsense first: where do I start? Well, (1) problem of uninsured vehicles is the problem of people driving them and being involved in accidents, and then having no insurance with which to compensate any victims. Collectors and other people may well own cars which they have no intention of ever taking on the road, and so do not bother to insure. It is simply absurd that they should face the cost of insuring a vehicle that never moves out of the garage. (2) When people or property are injured in an accident caused by an uninsured driver, seizing and crushing the driver’s car does nothing to help. Sure, the threat of it might dissuade people from driving without insurance, but other, more traditional penalties might be equally effective on that front. In any case, (3) selling the car in order to compensate the driver’s accident victims might do more for them. (4) Even on the simple grounds of economy, is it not better to preserve a perfectly good car than send it to the crusher, just so lawmakers can show how ‘tough’ they are?
But there is a justice question too. The present and proposed law have no regard to the value of the car. The loss to the uninsured driver could vary considerably depending on whether it was a Fiat or a Mercedes. And the point about justice is that the penalty should be the same for everyone. It’s time our politicians stepped outside their dreamworld and got a bit of common sense. And it’s time that they stopped trying to think up a headline-grabbing arbitrary ‘solution’ to every problem and learnt something about the principles of justice.
Edit: In the comments, HJ777 makes a point about SORNs (Statutory Off-Road Notifications) which are designed to avoid the situation outlined above. I’d overlooked this, but the point remains because many people will lack the time and knowledge to get out one until it’s too late. Thanks to HJ777 for the pointer.