Insurance premiums may quadruple motoring fines, says AA
A motorist's first speeding offence can cost four times the typical £60 fine because his or her car insurance premium will rise over three years, according to new research from AA Insurance.
However, responsible drivers who opt to take a speed awareness course instead will both keep a clean driving licence and reduce the total cost of their offence.
But anyone caught using a hand-held device to phone, text or email while driving can expect to be treated severely by their insurer and may even find their cover withdrawn.
Historically, many insurers ignored a first SP30 (speeding) offence but according to the AA, few now do so. That's because insurance companies are becoming smarter at identifying risk and charge premiums accordingly.
Such premium increases remain but will reduce over three years, meaning that with the cost of the fine and premium increase taken into account, offenders could fork out over £200 for just one speeding offence.
This makes the typical £90 cost of a speed awareness course, offered by many police forces for first offenders, appear good value.
Simon Douglas, director of AA Insurance, says: "Those who flout the law are more likely to make a claim and their premium reflects that risk. Why should the majority of motorists who stay within the law, subsidise those who don't?
"Those who have a single speeding conviction are 10% to 12% more likely to make a claim than those who have a clean license. Someone who picks up a second offence is 18% more likely to do so than a driver with just one. A driver caught for crossing a red traffic signal, is 20% to 25% more likely to make a claim*.
"As a driver's record deteriorates, the likelihood of being involved in a crash increases."
First offenders are increasingly likely to be offered a speed awareness course, which has led to a fall in the number of drivers with fixed penalties.
Insurers regard attending a course as a responsible action while evidence from those attending is overwhelmingly that the dangers of speeding are driven home, and believe their driving improves as a result.
"But offend again and that good work is undone: drivers won't get a second chance to attend a course and they will be fined and will see their premiums go up," Mr Douglas says.
‘No-one accidentally sends a text when driving'
However, an offence for using a hand-held mobile phone is regarded as being much more serious than speeding while only one or two police forces offer mobile phone awareness courses.
Anecdotally, the likelihood of an offender making a claim is up to double that of someone with a clean license.
"Insurers rightly treat drivers caught using a hand-held mobile phone very seriously. The point is, it is a deliberate act. Many drivers may accidentally drift over a 30mph limit without immediately realising it. But no-one accidentally makes or answers a call or text. It's completely unacceptable," Mr Douglas says.
"My view is that the present CU80 offence, which attracts a £60 fine and three points (the same as for speeding) is too lenient.
"It doesn't reflect the danger of such an offence. If a driver is texting, they aren't concentrating. Trying to steer and change gears with one hand and eyes on the device, not on the road, is a disaster in the making.
"No call or text is more important than that."
However, he acknowledges that police may escalate a mobile phone offence to careless or dangerous driving which can carry much heavier penalties.
Mr Douglas also suggests that those making a call to someone who is clearly answering while driving should ring off immediately. "It could save someone's life," he points out.