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Underage and uninsured: Sharp rise in children caught at the wheel

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Official figures show a dramatic increase in the number of under-17s convicted of driving without insurance, and premium tax rises could lead more adults to go without cover.

Children playing with toy cars

Thousands of underage and uninsured drivers are pushing up motor premiums as well as making our roads more dangerous.

New research published by the RAC has found that just under 1,000 children aged 16 or under were convicted of driving without insurance in 2014, the last year for which figures are available.

'Shocking number'

This represents a rise of more than a fifth in just two years, the organisation said.

An 11-year-old boy was the youngest to be caught by police – and underage males were more than 30 times more likely to be arrested and convicted than females.

RAC Insurance director Mark Godfrey said: “In trying to discover how many people have been convicted of driving without insurance, we found there is a shocking number of children who are caught driving before they’re even old enough to apply for a provisional licence, let alone have proper instruction.

"Sadly we may have little choice but to accept there will always be a minority of young males who will be prepared to drive without a licence or insurance.

Older drivers more likely to offend

"The fact that the number convicted has remained so high suggests a greater focus is needed to work with this group, so they understand better the risks and potential consequences of their actions."

The RAC found that, among those legally old enough to drive, more than 100,000 were convicted of driving uninsured in 2014 – this represented a fall of 6% on 2012.

Among older motorists, driving without insurance seems to have become more of a problem, however.

The number of men over the age of 65 found to be driving uninsured rose by almost a quarter from 809 to 992 between 2012 and 2014.

'Tip of the iceberg'

Godfrey said: “What is especially worrying is that these figures are really only the tip of the iceberg as the insurance industry estimates there are in the region of 1 million uninsured drivers on the road.

"This means only a tenth of drivers thought to be breaking the law in this way have been caught."

He added: “Insurance is a mandatory driving requirement for good reason: it’s there to protect drivers, as well as their passengers and other road users and property owners.

"Anyone who drives without insurance is not only breaking the law, they are also selfishly putting others, as well as themselves, at financial and legal risk."

Tax impact

 blocks spelling out tax with calculator

Uninsured drivers are thought to add around £30 a year to the cost of the typical motor insurance policy.

This is because a portion of each premium goes to the Motor Insurers Bureau, an organisation which helps settles claims against uninsured or untraced drivers.

But some experts believe that recent increases in the tax that is applied to every motor policy is only likely to lead to a rise in the number of people who choose to drive without cover.

Last October, Chancellor George Osborne raised insurance premium tax from its long-standing rate of 6% to 9.5%, adding around £20 on average to the annual cost of cover.

Telematics exemption?

And in March 2016's budget, the rate was increased once again, to 10%.

According to a recent AA poll, almost 90% of motorists believe higher premium tax will lead to higher rates of uninsured driving.

"The recent double rise in insurance premium tax by the Chancellor is unlikely to be helpful in reducing the numbers of uninsured drivers,” Godfrey at the RAC said.

"Insurers will inevitably pass the increased IPT cost on to the motorist and higher premiums may encourage some, particularly younger drivers, to break the law."

The RAC has called on the government to reduce IPT rates for young drivers who use telematics devices, which record driving behaviour and reward sensible motoring.

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