Jumping behind the wheel of your mate’s or your partner’s car could, in some cases, result in the vehicle being seized on the spot and you being punished for driving with invalid insurance.
That’s the warning from police, targeting uninsured drivers as part of Operation Drive Insured, a week of action involving 35 forces across England, Wales and Northern Ireland that ends tomorrow.
Potentially at risk are those who borrow their partner’s car to take their children to school, lend their vehicle as a favour, or test-drive one they are thinking of buying.
Many assume that their own insurance covers them to drive someone else’s car.
However, new research from short-term insurance provider Tempcover suggests that in recent years many insurers have been quietly modifying or even removing these clauses in policies. As a result, thousands are unwittingly breaking the law.
Even those companies that do provide so-called “driving other cars” (DOC) or “driving other vehicles” (DOV) cover as part of their comprehensive policies, have often put restrictions in place. For example, if you are with Admiral, you will often be covered for driving someone else’s car – but not if it belongs to your partner. And the other car can’t be a hire or rental car.
Meanwhile, if you are with Direct Line or Churchill, people “engaged in the motor trade” (whatever that is defined as) are excluded.
Last month, official figures revealed that more than 3,000 vehicles were seized between July 2016 and June 2018 after police found that the person behind the wheel had fallen foul of the DOC/DOV issue and was therefore not properly covered.
Some of those caught up in this would be horrified to be lumped in with uninsured drivers who are knowingly breaking the law.
The Motor Insurers’ Bureau says that in one case an individual who had borrowed their partner’s car so they could do the school run was stopped by police. It turned out they didn’t have the appropriate cover, so their partner’s vehicle was seized.
Alan Inskip at Tempcover says the restrictions have left “a muddled and confusing mess that could cost drivers big time”.
Inskip says that in some cases, beyond a brief sentence on the certificate of insurance – which people only see once they have bought their policy – there is often little specific information for drivers to find out whether they would be covered to drive another car.
One of the most common restrictions relates to age. If you are under 25, says Inskip, “good luck getting this extension on your policy, as almost none of the top providers will offer cover to drive another car”.
Also, where cover is available, it will very often be restricted to third party only. “What may seem like a quick trip in your mate’s car could result in you losing your vehicle, fines and points on your licence,” says Neil Drane, head of enforcement Services at MIB.