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There are circumstances where you might think you’re insured to drive…but before getting behind the wheel, always double-check. A hasty decision could result in serious consequences.

These days, police using number plate recognition software to check the Motor Insurance Database (MID) in seconds, so it’s really easy to get caught.

While some may wilfully drive uninsured, for others, it’s simply a lack of awareness, such as:

So what happens if you’re pulled over and you’re caught driving without insurance? As experts in temporary car insurance, we know a thing or two about the subject. So, we’re going to answer all your questions on the subject.

Will I be punished for driving without insurance?

Yes. Sure, there may be a little wiggle room in a few cases (more on that later), but the reality is that driving without valid insurance is a ticking time bomb. If you don’t have at least third party insurance, you’re looking to get punished.

Learn more: the different types of car insurance.

So, is it always illegal to drive without insurance? What does the law say?

Under the Road Traffic Act 1988, a car on the road or other public place must be insured. At the very least this should be third party insurance.

If you’re involved in an accident – even if it’s not your fault, checks will be made. Not only that, but police use number plate recognition cameras to pick up on uninsured drivers. You can’t simply buy cover retrospectively – it must be valid at the time you’re stopped.

What happens when you’re stopped by the police and accused of driving without insurance?

If this actually happens to you, you’ll be asked to present your insurance documents. They won’t necessarily expect you to have them on you that second, but if you do, that would help. You’ll be given seven days to provide up-to-date insurance documents to the police. These must show that you had a valid policy in place covering the period that they stopped you.

What is the penalty for driving without insurance?

Police can impose a couple of different punishments. The absolute minimum penalty for driving without insurance is:

If the case goes to court, there could be an unlimited fine and a driving disqualification.

Points are recorded for four years and disqualification is likely with 12 or more penalty points within three years. If you’re disqualified for any period longer than 56 days, you’ll need to apply for a new licence.

Police can seize an uninsured car and either destroy the vehicle or have it sold at auction. Uninsured driving convictions also show up on DBS checks. In the most serious cases, where there is a fatality, there can be jail sentences of up to two years, or 10 years if ‘dangerous driving’ is proved.

Even if a car is not being driven, if it’s uninsured, you could be given a £100 fine and a £20 storage charge per day and £150 collection fee if it’s seized by police.

However, driving without insurance in itself is not an imprisonable offence and does not appear on a conviction on a criminal record.

But I’ve got comprehensive insurance, surely that means I can drive any car I want?

No! Or at least, not necessarily. Sure, a lot of comprehensive car insurance policies include ‘drive other cars’ (DOC) cover, but it may not be the catch-all you’re hoping for.

This cover is primarily aimed at allowing you to drive someone else’s car in an emergency, rather than regularly. Many insurers don’t even offer it anymore. It’s also subject to a number of terms and conditions.

If you do have this as part of your cover, then at the very least you’ll need to get explicit permission from the vehicle owner and even then you may only have third party cover. Always check the details of your policy.

If you are caught trying to use DOC as your excuse you could even land the owner of the car in hot water too.

Are there any loopholes or legal reasons for driving without insurance?

There are a number of ‘mitigating circumstances’ that may be considered if you’re caught driving without insurance. These aren’t a given though, and you can’t rely on them.

Some instances where people may have had a punishment reduced have included, but are not limited to:

There may be other circumstances that are considered.

Simply forgetting to renew your policy is not an excuse.

What about cars that are not driven?

In most cases, if a car is out of action, it still needs to be insured. This is the case if it’s on the street as a stationary car can still be in an accident. You can declare a car Statutory Off Road Notice (SORN), meaning it does not need to be insured, but it cannot be left on a public road.

What circumstances don’t I need insurance to drive?

There are actually a number of circumstances where you don’t need to insure your car. However, these don’t generally let you drive the car.

Your car doesn’t need insurance if:

The only time you can drive a car without insurance is on private land. All the other times require the car to be off-road in some way.

My insurance policy isn’t showing up on the Motor Insurance Database (MID), can I drive?

Whenever you insure your car, your policy will show up on the Motor Insurance Database.

You can learn more about what the MID is here, but in short, it’s a database that details all the cars and their insurance status.

Insurance can take a few days to show up on the MID though. So, if you’re driving immediately after buying a policy, there’s a chance you won’t show up when the police check your number plate. In this instance, you’re still insured, so don’t worry. Just make sure you have your policy details to hand to prove it and explain the situation.

I’m insured, but I’ve been hit by an uninsured driver, what then?

Even if you’re meeting all the motoring laws yourself, and driving with insurance, you may still find yourself in an awkward situation. If you’re unlucky enough to be in a car accident with someone that was driving without insurance, there are a few things you’ll need to do.

First of all, if the other driver says they are uninsured or refuses to supply insurance details, you should report them to the police.

If they simply didn’t have their details, you can look to see if it’s an uninsured vehicle by checking its details on the Motor Insurance Database website.

You can also see whether you can claim compensation from the Motor Insurer’s Bureau.

A simple solution from GoShorty

There’s a straightforward and affordable way to make sure you don’t have to risk driving uninsured. Comprehensive short term car insurance or temporary van insurance from GoShorty can be purchased from one hour up to 28 days and provides ultimate reinsurance.

So, this would cover a test drive or can be taken out on a regular basis if you want to car share or borrow a vehicle from time to time. Our temporary car insurance is available for drivers aged 18 to 75 and is a fast and certain way to ensure you don’t need to drive uninsured.

Don’t risk driving without insurance – get cover today with a temporary insurance quote from GoShorty.