Thinking of lending someone your car?
It is bad enough when
you lend your car to someone and it comes back with the seat in
the wrong position, and the ashtray full. But what if you not
only had to readjust the seat and clean the ashtray, but also
lost your driving licence as well? Would you be as willing to
lend your car out again?
This is not scaremongering, but it is an awful risk that
hundreds of thousands of people risk every year by lending their
cars to other people, without first checking that insurance is
in place. Around a quarter of a million people are convicted of
driving without insurance every year,and roughly one third of
them are driving cars which they claim to have borrowed from
someone else; when it is shown that that 'someone else' has
given permission for the driver to take the vehicle, a
prosecution for permitting a vehicle to be driven without
insurance is the usual result. Usually, the fixed penalty of
£200 fine and a 6 to 8 point penalty on the driving licence is
the standard punishment, but if the case goes to court the
maximum fine could be £5000. If you already have a few penalty
points on your licence a disqualification could be very likely.
It isn't as if you could put forward, as a valid defence, the
fact that you genuinely believed this person to be insured. That
will cut no ice whatsoever with the magistrates, since they only
need to ask two questions; firstly, did you know that that
person was going to drive the vehicle, and secondly, if you did
know, would you have given your permission. If you answer "yes"
to both these questions then you are automatically guilty of the
offence; if you can give valid reasons why you had good reason
to believe that the driver was in fact insured the magistrates
could take this into consideration and be more lenient, but you
would have to show that you have made all reasonable efforts to
make absolutely certain that you were in the clear; merely
accepting the other person's word for it would not constitute
all reasonable efforts.
The only defences against conviction would be to prove that you
did not own the vehicle, so therefore could not give permission
for it to be driven; or you would have to convince the
magistrates that you did not know that this person was going to
drive your car, and if you had known you would not have allowed
it. This would be a very serious allegation to make against the
driver, who could well be convicted of taking and driving away a
motor vehicle (TWOC, or Taking Without Owner's Consent), which
could carry a penalty of six months imprisonment; and any
passenger in the car could also face prosecution.
The moral of this is very clear. Before you lend your car to
anyone at all, you need to be 100% certain that that person is
insured to drive the vehicle. This means that you must actually
see the relevant insurance certificate, and fair enough, this
may well be embarrassing particularly if you are dealing with a
good friend but if your driving licence is at stake it is
something that just has to be done.
Many drivers assume that because they have fully comprehensive
insurance on their own vehicle, they are automatically covered
for another vehicle that they do not own. This is not
necessarily the case. This type of cover has been withdrawn by a
lot of insurance companies, partly under government pressure,
and many others load on conditions which can easily be breached,
such as excluding cars belonging to close relatives, over a
certain capacity, people in certain occupations, etc. If in the
slightest doubt, insist on a short term insurance policy to
cover the period of the loan.
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