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Big Brother at the Petrol Station
March 15, 2012 1:43 PM   Subscribe

We've all heard about the proliferation of CCTV in the UK. Now, accounting firm Ernst & Young has a new scheme for the Brits: Uninsured drivers won't be able to fill up.

"A new plan from the British government will use closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras at gas stations that will automatically prevent uninsured drivers from filling up their gas tanks—that is, until their vehicle information has been logged in the system."
posted by symbioid (53 comments total)

 
hrmm- the framing isn't the best "won't" is more like "will experience a delay"
posted by symbioid at 1:44 PM on March 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Imagine the cost of the IT infrastructure needed to implement the project - it must be gargantuan. HP Enterprise Services must be fucking stocked, schools and the NHS not so much.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:49 PM on March 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Imagine the cost of the IT infrastructure needed to implement the project - it must be gargantuan. HP Enterprise Services must be fucking stocked, schools and the NHS not so much.

Read the article. It's already been setup by private actors as a way to prevent driveoffs. They're just making it query the insurance database at the same time. It will cost the government next to nothing.
posted by Talez at 1:55 PM on March 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


We've all heard about the proliferation of CCTV in the UK.

We have! And we've noted several times how many of the claims are complete nonsense! And then we read that the Mirror story makes it clear that it's just a harebrained scheme from the government which the petrol companies who own the cameras don't want to take part in! Because they're their cameras! And not the governments! Which is how the initial problem with "eleventy million cameras per Engish person" meme started! Bad reporting! Brig Brother! Winston Smith save me!
posted by Jehan at 1:56 PM on March 15, 2012 [11 favorites]


I don't think it can be much in terms of infrastructure. I'm not aware of many filling stations in the UK that let you fill up before their CCTV checks your number plate, and insurance details are already available for checking online, so combining the two isn't going to be a big deal.

I have to say that I can't get too upset about the privacy aspect of it. Registration numbers are specifically there for cars to be identified from a distance.
posted by ambrosen at 1:56 PM on March 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can you fill a gas can in the UK? I'm imagining loads of hustlers reselling petrol out of a 5gal container.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 1:56 PM on March 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


A consultant recommends a system that the consultant will then implement? And promises it'll be nice and easy?

lol
posted by jquinby at 1:57 PM on March 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Bet this would make the Top Gear news if they hadn't just ended their current season.
posted by the_artificer at 1:59 PM on March 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


a) The CCTV stuff is wildly exaggerated paranoid American bullshit.

b) In the unlikely event that there's much truth in this particular story I don't have a problem with it at all. Driving uninsured is illegal, and people who do it are motherfuckers. I'm all for anything that helps nail them or make their selfish little lives more difficult.
posted by Decani at 2:19 PM on March 15, 2012 [16 favorites]


a) The CCTV stuff is wildly exaggerated paranoid American bullshit.

Jeez man, they're not paranoid, they read all about it on Yahoo News. It's totally real bro.
posted by Jehan at 2:20 PM on March 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Creepily clever, but how is this better than denying someone without insurance their registration/plates? (Other than the vindictive thrill of imagining some unshaven nogoodnik instantly stranded at the pump, foiled by the Good People at SkyNet). Or does registration work differently outside my tiny worldview?
posted by Pathos Bill at 2:21 PM on March 15, 2012


If they could come up with a version that opens a trap-door under the car as soon as it's identified as uninsured, and drops it down into a pit of doom, that would be excellent.
posted by reynir at 2:25 PM on March 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The black market for gas is going to be incredibly profitable if this goes through.
posted by tmt at 2:26 PM on March 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Don't they crush uninsured vehicles in the UK when the police catch them?
posted by srboisvert at 2:34 PM on March 15, 2012


I'm completely unsympathetic to the argument that petrol station cashiers are not law enforcers. They are when selling alcohol and cigarettes, which most of them do anyway.
I'm totally fine with this.
posted by edd at 2:35 PM on March 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yep, great idea, putting the purchase of a highly necessary commodity under automated surveillance. I'm sure nothing would ever go wrong with that.
posted by Malor at 2:43 PM on March 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm all for anything that helps nail them or make their selfish little lives more difficult.

Except that it'll make all our selfish little lives more difficult. The extra wait for the system to identify drivers' insurance status will apply to everyone, whether insured or not. And even if a driver is identified as uninsured, they'll still be able to fill up. So the point is... to identify which registered vehicles are uninsured? But doesn't the DVLA already know that? We have to tell them our insurance details every year when renewing our registration.

Nice little earner there, Ernst & Young. Completely pointless, but relatively inexpensive!
posted by rory at 2:51 PM on March 15, 2012


By monitoring each number plate lookup, the insurance companies will be able to build a database of all the filling stations each customer has visited, fill up on the wrong side of town too often and your premium will magically go up the next year.
posted by Lanark at 2:53 PM on March 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


Pathos Bill, yes, registration plates in the UK are not provided by the DVLA (UK-US translation:DMV), but can be bought at any motor supply store, and until recently, you didn't have to provide proof that you owned the car whose number you were registering. Annual proof of ownership is filled out by paying Vehicle Excise Duty, which requires that the vehicle be insured and have passed inspection (known as the MOT (Ministry of Transport) test).

rory, I suspect that what the new system will do is show which SORNed cars are actually being driven, and where they are. Hopefully it can be used for targetting some pretty severe enforcement of traffic law (because road traffic still causes many more unlawful killings than all other causes put together in the UK, a country with roads twice as safe as most of its neighbours).
posted by ambrosen at 2:58 PM on March 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm all in favour of hammering uninsured drivers; the reasons for driving without insurance are all bad ones.

(Brief re-cap: 1. The driver has had their license disqualified for some offense, e.g. drunk-driving. 2. The vehicle is stolen or TWOC'd. 3. The vehicle has failed a VOSN — roadworthiness — test. 4. The driver can't afford insurance — in which case they can't afford to maintain the vehicle safely. 5. The driver is a sociopath who doesn't give a shit about what happens if they injure or kill someone else on the road.)

Whether this is the right way to hammer uninsured motorists is another question, of course. If it's just a database-lookup ("does registration number map to a valid insurance policy? y/n") followed by a requirement to present proof of identity in order to buy fuel, I'm not sure that goes far enough. For example, how are the petrol station staff meant to verify ID, if the fuel is being bought with cash? I'd be a lot happier if a fail resulted in an immediate call-out to the police, to take matters from there (complete with a trip to the car-crusher).

As for buying fuel in a can, sure: just cap sales at 5 litres. That's plenty for a lawn mower (of the walk-behind variety, anyway) or an emergency get-me-home can in the car boot. It'd be a royal pain in the ass to try and operate an uninsured vehicle on that basis, though, which is the whole point.
posted by cstross at 3:03 PM on March 15, 2012


Estimated 1.4 million drivers without insurance in the UK, responsible for accidents causing about 160 deaths a year and over 23,000 injuries.
posted by reynir at 3:05 PM on March 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whoops, per ambrosen I missed another cause for driving without insurance: road tax evasion by filling out a SORN form. On the other hand, I reckon that's a subset of my #5: "the driver is a sociopath who doesn't give a shit ..."
posted by cstross at 3:05 PM on March 15, 2012


Don't they crush uninsured vehicles in the UK when the police catch them?

I'm not sure what you might have to do for this to apply, but my SO was pulled for driving without insurance and they made her call an insurance company and buy some insurance before she was allowed to drive away, with a jump in rates as she was looking at 3 points on her licence.

For the record, she didn't get the points as she was only driving without insurance as the AA had sent a letter saying she would be insured and then not insured, so she got let off after they sent a letter to the Chief Constable. The hopeless AA person when my SO phoned them in front of the policeman did not help as she denied that my SO had cover, luckily we were able to show she should have had after the caution. (To pile it on, after it was all sorted out my SO was sent the insurance letter to cover the period when she was nicked and for the rest of the year, and the AA had applied it to the car we had sold 9 months previously, so she actually drove around for another week without insurance after getting nicked.) Thanks AA.
posted by biffa at 3:17 PM on March 15, 2012


On the one hand, yeah I really like the idea of catching uninsured drivers; as cstross says, all the reasons for driving without insurance are bad ones. On the other hand, I abhor the concept of Big Brother keeping track of everyone, what they do and where they go.
posted by easily confused at 3:31 PM on March 15, 2012


On the other hand, I abhor the concept of Big Brother keeping track of everyone, what they do and where they go.

Well yes, but: it is in principle possible to screen for uninsured drivers non-intrusively.

I don't know whether Ernst and Young would propose to do it this way, but what's needed is for DVLA to push a database out to each garage once every week. It will consist simply of a table of number plates and insurance status. In fact, ideally the insurance status would be a simple boolean field (or maybe two -- one for "insured: yes/no" and one for "road tax paid: yes/no"). With 30 million records containing a registration number (seven alphanumerics) and two boolean values, it ought to be easy enough to cram inside about 150Mb -- the type of data is easily compressible. Moreover, updates are only needed if the data changes -- for most vehicles, this weeks status is the same as last weeks. Indeed, weekly updates would probably be measured in single-digit megabytes.

As for the check itself, it would be something like this: is the vehicle registration foreign? If so, ignore it. If not: check against database. Is car present flagged as insured and taxed? If so ignore. Only then [take action for uninsured/untaxed motor].

This shouldn't require any online lookups over the net. Searching a 30 million entry table held in RAM should take a fraction of a second on suitably tuned modern hardware. And the only "keeping tabs" that takes place occurs after the vehicle is identified as anomalous.

(Now we're going to learn that E&Y are quoting for real time online lookups into DVLA's database, recording every petrol station stop that every vehicle in the land makes, et-bloody-cetera. But just because that's the way Big Brother's little helpers think doesn't mean that it's the only way -- or the right way -- to do such a job.)
posted by cstross at 4:00 PM on March 15, 2012


Read the article. It's already been setup by private actors as a way to prevent driveoffs. They're just making it query the insurance database at the same time. It will cost the government next to nothing.

I've gotten gas at stations with CCTV for decades which were installed to help curb drive-offs and identify thieves of the attached convenience store. From what I can tell from the monitors inside, the resolution is pretty low tech and there's no technology to scan plates. If there's a crime committed they manually play back the recording to get the tags and images of the thief. I suspect petrol stations in the UK employ a similar technology. Where I've lived in the US, the problem of drive offs have been cured by prepayment and has been for years. The cameras are still there for other theft deterrence reasons (and from the monitors at the cashier tend not to be very good quality at that, often the power of CCTV security it just the sign that says "these premises are monitored" more than the actual recorded images). Newer installations might allow higher fidelity and remote viewing of the video from the station, but I don't think there's this level of scanning and networking happening where the gas/petrol station security cameras can be cheaply updated to allow for this. In addition to making sure the IT is there, there's also factors (someone is standing in the frame, a dirty license plate, condensation on the camera, etc) and error (the government database isn't updated or has incorrect information). I fear this magical automated camera would have a higher false positive for the uninsured motorists and lead to longer lines at the pump than necessary while not stopping many chronically uninsured drivers. So when the camera matching doesn't work, a clerk at the station will have to key in the number manually. What is in it for the gas station operator?

Clearly the technology exists for scanning plates and bouncing the numbers against a database. But I think it would require a significant IT investment to make it work. Just as it is technically possible for traffic cameras on the motorways to do the same thing (instead of turning off the pump, it alerts the police there's an uninsured motorist and they can send a summons or a cop to follow up). In the US toll roads or roads near land borders there are cameras that can read plates at speeds up to 160mph. It would be easy peasy to implement, but it would be expensive.

As someone who has been in three accidents where I wasn't at fault and in two of those cases the person that hit was was uninsured, I'm all for doing something about uninsured motorists. People with suspended licenses shouldn't be driving either. Maybe they should add facial recognition to the cameras and bounce faces up against the list of people with revoked licenses.

Rather than the technical fix, making the punishment for driving w/o insurance more severe. If you're pulled over and do not have insurance, your car is taken away until you get insured. The fines and threat of suspended licenses doesn't seem to work. It would suck if you're broke and need the car to get to work, but you'll either find the money or take the bus until you take care of it.
posted by birdherder at 4:30 PM on March 15, 2012


birdherder, the normal warning sign at a UK petrol station says that it won't start dispensing until the computer's read your number plate. Here's a press release selling ANPR for private use, back in 2003. I saw it priced at £159 for the software.
posted by ambrosen at 4:45 PM on March 15, 2012


if the uk is going to get every gas station in the country involved, there's a much easier way to do this

give everyone insurance papers who's a licensed driver - and pay for the insurance with gasoline taxes - and yes, make people pay for the gas before they pump it
posted by pyramid termite at 5:25 PM on March 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


pyramid termite, there's a moral hazard there, because at least there's a semblance of market forces causing costs to those who need more insurance cover (even if no claims bonus is largely a marketing fiction). If insurance becomes flat rate, then won't risk rise? I'd hate for road use to become more risky, because, you know, it's too dangerous as it is.
posted by ambrosen at 5:29 PM on March 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


birdherder, the normal warning sign at a UK petrol station says that it won't start dispensing until the computer's read your number plate. Here's a press release selling ANPR for private use, back in 2003. I saw it priced at £159 for the software.

Thank you for the clarification. My apologies for thinking the CCTV use in the UK petrol stations were similar to those in US gas stations. For the most part, the problem with drive-offs in the United States is solved by asking for the money up front (paying by credit/debit or cash, either an attendant or at the pump/kiosk). So the US camera use is purely to keep people from robbing the till or the beer/cigs/candy/etc from the shop. So you'll see 20+ year old cameras and black and white CRT monitors.

So if the smarter CCTV in the UK can read plates, great. I guess this means I'm against this idea because it is requiring private businesses to regulate government insurance requirements. If the stations are owned by the state, I'd be less concerned. Which is why I though having the government enforce its own laws by using public driving areas and CCTV on motorways or speed cameras, then mail a summons, and for egregious violators, a visit from the police. Or a less technical impounding the cars of people caught driving w/o insurance.

I would think an easy foil to the cameras at petrol station would be to just steal the plates, get the gas, drive off and by the time the police find the registered owner is a housebound pensioner, the crooks have a full tank of petrol and didn't get stopped by the scheme. Or the crook pays for the petrol and no one is the wiser until the person whose plates were stolen notices they're missing. When you create better mousetraps you get smarter mice.
posted by birdherder at 6:14 PM on March 15, 2012


ambrosen, it's my belief that careless people will be careless, no matter what rules you pass - they always think that the bad thing won't happen to them
posted by pyramid termite at 7:16 PM on March 15, 2012


and yes, make people pay for the gas before they pump it

This has been the law in British Columbia for several years now, after a couple of "gas and dash" incidents where the station attendants were killed.

It's a mildly annoying solution, in that the card readers are slow, and also try to upsell you every step of the way.

Anyway, I wonder how long it will be in Britain until you will be prevented from accessing your bank account if the system determines you have broken the law, or a even a by-law.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:04 PM on March 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Pre-purchased also allows unstaffed gas stations, which are pretty nice if you're driving outside the city in the middle of the night.
posted by ryanrs at 10:53 PM on March 15, 2012


it's hard to not immediately think of British author George Orwell's seminal novel "1984."

Looking around the desolate petrol distribution centre, Winston closed his dull green rusting Victory sedan and shuffled into the dim grimy UPAY and took his place at the end of the queue. Not too bad tonight he thought, only twenty five people before him, an
d if the attendant was older then the queue would move quickly. Winsto

n craned his head and risked a peek over the heads of the line. He was out of luck, it was one of the younger attendants who would be full of enthusiasm and suspicion. She would definitely be checking insurance.

"You. At the back of the queue, come here". Winston froze.
posted by mattoxic at 11:18 PM on March 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's already been setup by private actors as a way to prevent driveoffs. They're just making it query the insurance database at the same time. It will cost the government next to nothing.

HA HA HA pull the other one, it's got bells on.

Current cctv installations at petrol stations do nothing more than just recording people driving away; there's (usually) no software behind it. Now they want it to in real time a) capture a licence plate b) check it against a national database and c) then decide whether or not anybody can top up their tank.

Now it's true that all these seperate steps are not that new or difficult to implement at any given single petrol station, but to do that country wide is going to be tricky. And with the track record of the UK government and its conslutants, I wouldn't be hopeful about it costing next to nothing.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:51 PM on March 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Anyway, I wonder how long it will be in Britain until you will be prevented from accessing your bank account

It's not just in Britain that terrorists and terrorist suspects cannot open bank accounts.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:51 PM on March 15, 2012


Current cctv installations at petrol stations do nothing more than just recording people driving away; there's (usually) no software behind it. Now they want it to in real time a) capture a licence plate b) check it against a national database and c) then decide whether or not anybody can top up their tank.

Now it's true that all these seperate steps are not that new or difficult to implement at any given single petrol station, but to do that country wide is going to be tricky. And with the track record of the UK government and its conslutants, I wouldn't be hopeful about it costing next to nothing.


I knew I wasn't crazy!
posted by KokuRyu at 12:14 AM on March 16, 2012


This all leaves out the major structural changes the British petrol station market is currently undergoing.

[No] thanks to a vicious price war led by the Big Four supermarket chains, there are now about half as many gas stations as there were ten years ago. As of 2010, there were around 8800 of them. Most of the independents have shut down or been driven to close their pumps and specialize in something else (e.g. valet cleaning). What's left are large, modern, well-equipped oil corporation franchises operated by supermarket chains -- the commonest seem to be Tesco, with a Tesco Local on the side -- and also large drive-through operations sited at out-of-town supermarkets. They're either self-service and pay-at-till, or insert-credit-card-to-serve. (The pay-at-till ones persist because they suck shoppers into the store to buy other items. To the supermarket chains, petrol/diesel are loss-leaders to attract custom.)

The cost of a comprehensive CCTV set-up (the ANPR cameras are slung from the roof of the awning over the pumps, angled down so that you can't drive past the pumps without giving a clear view of your plates) is fairly minor compared to the cost of even one properly maintained and licensed petrol pump -- and most of these garages have eight to twelve of the things.

Finally: petrol stations are carefully regulated by government -- more so than most retail establishments -- for good reason. Firstly, petrol/diesel are taxed, both VAT and Duty, much like beer, wine, and spirits. Secondly, they're environmental pollutants and carry a serious fire hazard, so the storage facilities have to be maintained properly (in a way that your local corner off-license doesn't: nobody worries about a branch of Oddbins going up in a hundred-metre fireball).

Incidentally, let's do some maths. There are 31 million cars on the roads in the UK. Average UK mileage is 12,000 miles/year, so we have 372 billion car-miles/year for the UK. Average combined cycle fuel efficiency is 37.8mpg (note these are British gallons -- 25% bigger than US gallons). So the 8800-odd petrol stations are dispensing around 10 billion gallons of fuel per year, or roughly 45 billion litres at £1.35/litre (averaging petrol/diesel costs). That's around 5.1 million litres per petrol station per year, so each of these establishments is on average turning over around 7 million pounds (or US $11M).

So we're talking about policing a relatively small (under 8800) number of very large high-turnover retail establishments, rather than a massive number of small mom'n'pop stores here.
posted by cstross at 2:10 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Despite having my car totalled by an uninsured driver in the past, I have some sympathy for uninsured drivers. cstross is wrong to make the call that if you can't afford insurance, you can't afford to maintain the vehicle.

Car Insurance costs a lot. If you live in the wrong area, you live in a house without a driveway, and you're less than 25 years old, and you've just started driving then insurance rates for even the tiniest cars can hit thousands of pounds.

That's even if you can get insurance.

If you're young, you're poor and you need a car for your minimum wage job, you could easily see £300+ a month being asked for in insurance premiums. This is on top of the outrageous house rental costs. I can see why people feel they can't afford that. To suggest sociopathy ignores the real needs of people who know that (a) they can't afford it, (b) there are a huge number of other people doing it and (c) it's all a fucking con anyway.

If you want to make sure that drivers pay for insurance, you need to understand why good people are breaking the law, & you need to drive down the cost of insurance. Placing CCTV cameras in petrol stations is not the answer. I'm pretty sure that I'm only a length of hosepipe away from filling my uninsured car up, and then pumping that petrol from my car into a mates car.

If you want to solve the problem of uninsured drivers, you need to:

a) Make sure that insurance companies are barred from using your address when quoting you for your insurance.

b) There needs to be a curtailing of the compensation culture that currently exists around car accidents. ¹

Selling extra surveillance to solve this problem is stupid, shifts blame away from the money makers and will never work. It appears that Ernst and Young are continuing their tradition of great & devious work for their hugely rich masters.

¹ For Americans: How the UK car insurance business works: If you have a minor accident in the UK, Insurance companies will sell details of that accident to ambulance chasers who then will phone you up, and try to convince you that you're physically more damaged than you actually are. i.e. They'll try to convince you that you do have whiplash. If you're an honest sort, then they'll harass you till you agree. They'll then organise a false claim for you which, when sent to court, will not be attended by the insurance company who needs to pay out. The resulting £7,000+ payout will then be folded into the "costs" of car insurance and everyone's insurance premiums are pushed up accordingly. With bigger premiums, the insurance companies make more money, the ambulance chasing lawyers make a nice tidy sum, and a few people get given a modest amount of money for cigs and Jeremy Kyle DVD's. Meanwhile, poor, honest, hard working people get utterly stiffed again.
posted by zoo at 2:12 AM on March 16, 2012


zoo, two points.

1) You're making an argument for reform of the insurance industry (specifically the ambulance chaser stuff -- which IIRC is being legislated on in this current parliament).

2) Leaving aside the fact that the 80% of us who live in towns and cities generally have good public transport (for values of "good" that, even in towns where we grumble about it, would turn most Americans green with envy -- mostly because we live in a densely crowded island with short travel distances), the answer to your minimum-wage Joe who needs wheels to get to work is get a moped instead. Insurance on a low-power two wheeler is a lot cheaper than on four, they'll get 100-200 miles/gallon, and so on.

TL:DR is, we have alternatives to car ownership.
posted by cstross at 2:56 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Re: Uninsured Car Crushing.

Cars 'to be seized and crushed' in insurance crackdown

I have no idea if this actually got passed or if it is just another example of the coalition's pie-in-sky dreaming...
posted by srboisvert at 3:01 AM on March 16, 2012


cstross: Your answer is to "Get on your bike" then. That's a bit Tebbit for an old socialist like you. :-)

Mopeds for all would be a good idea if there weren't so many damn cars on the road. I'd never drive one. I know one young lad does drive one, and rush hour traffic + moped driver is a dangerous thing.

We do have good public transport, but if you don't live or work close to a major transport hub, commuting to work can take an age. When I was commuting by public transport, I was spending up to 4 hours a day getting from where I lived to where I worked. Moving to a car dropped this down to an hour and a half.

(Moving close to where I lived dropped it down to a leisurely 1 hours walking. Being middle class, I am in favour of green commuting.)

The wife's commute would take 2 hours on public transport instead of 1 hour by car. This is for a job that's only 12 miles away.

As much as I'd like to see people living closer to their jobs and supermarkets being nearer to the people and people using cheaper forms of transport, I think it's a bit rich to use this as a justification for calling uninsured drivers sociopathic. The truth is that if you're working, then the worse off you are, the more important it is for you to have access to a car.

You want to get the 4% of drivers who are uninsured to be insured? Make insurance cheaper. That's it. Don't create stupid cctv schemes that won't work. And don't make ivory tower pronouncements about mopeds and public transport. If 1,000,000 people feel they're better off breaking the law than taking your alternative, then maybe your alternative isn't so great.
posted by zoo at 3:43 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Read the article. It's already been setup by private actors as a way to prevent driveoffs. They're just making it query the insurance database at the same time. It will cost the government next to nothing.
That seems like a ridiculously crazy way to do it. In the U.S, most gas stations just require a credit card before you fill up. If you want to pay cash (rare enough now) you have to walk in and prepay.

I don't even understand how this is supposed to prevent driveoffs. Do they get to charge the insurance company if you do drive off?
You want to get the 4% of drivers who are uninsured to be insured? Make insurance cheaper. That's it.
That's not actually possible. Insurance premiums have to cover the costs of all accidents. That can't happen if people pay less.

You can buy uninsured motorist insurance if you get hit by someone who doesn't have insurance. It's not very expensive.
posted by delmoi at 4:47 AM on March 16, 2012


5. The driver is a sociopath who doesn't give a shit about what happens if they injure or kill someone else on the road.
If they get injured, they'll be treated by the NHS. If they get killed, well, insurance won't bring them back to life. So I don't see how insurance has any impact on either of those two things.
posted by delmoi at 4:55 AM on March 16, 2012


the U.S, most gas stations just require a credit card before you fill up.

As was mentioned above, UK petrol stations are connected to a shop: the petrol is a way to draw people into the shop where it's hoped they'll buy things while they're paying for their petrol. If people pay before, then that business model (which I realise amounts to tempting people with sweets and microwaved pies on their way to pay for petrol, but it seems to work for the businesses in question) falls down.
posted by Grangousier at 5:14 AM on March 16, 2012


delmoi:

The figure I quoted was for "uninsured motor insurance". Or as we like to call it, "3rd Party". In many cases, 3rd party is actually more expensive than "fully comprehensive" insurance.

I actually detailed 2 very real things that could be done to reduce premiums. Firstly, Ambulance chase claims have made a very real difference on the cost of car insurance. Cracking down on false whiplash claims would reduce premiums.

Secondly, the removal of geographic information from premium calculations would equalise the amount spent between poor and rich areas & it would smooth out differences in areas like the Midlands and Bradford where uninsured driving is making some areas impossible to find insurance for. If you're paying £300.00 in your leafy suburb and I'm paying £1500.00 in my inner city estate, then removing that discrepancy means that although richer people pay more, I may actually be able to afford to drive to work.
posted by zoo at 5:21 AM on March 16, 2012


As was mentioned above, UK petrol stations are connected to a shop: the petrol is a way to draw people into the shop where it's hoped they'll buy things while they're paying for their petrol.

This is basically the set up in the US, too, though I have the impression that British petrol stations sell a wider array of goods. (But maybe not--having never driven in Britain, I don't know.) In fact, we've got gas stations next to each other where one charges significantly higher prices on gas for no apparent reason. The speculation is that they're using the pretense of selling gas as a way to keep the profitable shop location to sell soda and chips to pedestrians.
posted by hoyland at 5:24 AM on March 16, 2012


a) The CCTV stuff is wildly exaggerated paranoid American bullshit.

That keeps getting used as a plot point in BBC shows like Sherlock?
posted by smackfu at 5:44 AM on March 16, 2012


You know what#s disturbing to this London-dweller more than CCTV? The fact that in every shop I go in these days, there's a sign warning people that verbal/physical abuse is not acceptable/results in prosecution etc. etc. When did we start needing signs for this kind of thing?
posted by mippy at 7:53 AM on March 16, 2012


Mopeds for all would be a good idea if there weren't so many damn cars on the road. I'd never drive one. I know one young lad does drive one, and rush hour traffic + moped driver is a dangerous thing.

This is not an argument against mopeds; it is an argument against cars (especially cars driven without third-party insurance) as a means of one-person transport.

I'd be quite happy to see the law changed to make it much harder to drive a car -- a multi-ton high speed vehicle -- and to penalize dangerous driving or vehicular assault much more harshly, and at the same time to make it easier for folks who need personal transport to use mopeds or low-performance motorbikes.

(A 20 year old male in a car is ludicrously dangerous, combining a sense of immortality with testosterone poisoning and so little experience that they suffer from automotive Dunning-Kruger syndrome. The same 17-yo on a moped ... well, at least they're unlikely to take anyone else out at the same time.)
posted by cstross at 11:52 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, in a country where healthcare is totally socialized anyway, who cares if someone drives uninsured? I mean, the article from the 'crushing' link above says:

Sources at the Department for Transport (DfT) claim that the move will help reduce the £30 estimated annual cost to every responsible motorist in additional premiums to cover crashes involving uninsured drivers.

Thirty pounds a year per insured motorist doesn't seem like an especially pressing problem, certainly not worth beating up on the weakest members of your society in a rather inept attempt at a solution. If they couldn't afford it to begin with, destroying their car is hardly going to help, all you're going to do is put them on the dole. And, I would suggest, that's going to cause a lot more total social damage than thirty pounds a year per insured driver.
posted by Malor at 3:09 PM on March 16, 2012


So, in a country where healthcare is totally socialized anyway, who cares if someone drives uninsured?

People who have little money but aren't free riders and so do have car insurance, but who can only afford third party, fire and theft, and not fully comp. An uninsured driver hits their car and it's a write-off. They now have no car. And can't afford a new one. And can't get to work because it's not accessible by public transport.

They might care, a little bit.
posted by reynir at 3:53 PM on March 16, 2012


Also (and acknowledging the source of the research, as it's the Association Of British Insurers, but...) uninsured drivers are:

- ten times more likely to be convicted of drink driving
- six times more likely to have a car that's not roadworthy
- three times more likely to be convicted of driving without due care.

While I'm sure there are many uninsured drivers who fall into zoo's category of honest-folk-desperately-needing-a-break, there are also many who fall into the category of simply-couldn't-give-a-flying-fuck-about-other-people, and that drops them bang into cstross' sociopath category.
posted by reynir at 4:00 PM on March 16, 2012


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