Uninsured drivers could soon see their petrol supply dry up, if the government backs a plan to use cameras to check number-plates at every fill-up.
Lots of forecourts already bristle with cameras hooked up to DVLA databases, installed to deter fuel thieves from filling up and speeding off. Some garages already prevent pumps from dispensing fuel if a vehicle’s registration plate can’t be recognised by ANPR (automated number plate recognition) technology.
Under the latest proposals, petrol stations could run an extra check to ensure the vehicle is taxed and insured before freely dispensing fuel.
To prevent the nation’s lawnmowers from running dry, and to allow stranded motorists to fill a jerry can with fuel, the system would allow pumps to dispense a limited amount of petrol or diesel even if the driver’s details can’t be verified. A customer failing the database check might be limited to just a few litres of fuel per fill-up, reducing over time to zero if their car repeatedly shows up as untaxed or uninsured.
Consulting company Ernst & Young, which dreamed up the scheme, told The Guardian that 80 per cent of the nation’s 8,500 forecourts are already equipped to accept the upgrade, and that the scheme could be rolled out for between forty and sixty million pounds.
That might sound like a lot of cash to throw at detecting a few bad apples, but according to industry body the Motor Insurers’ Bureau, rogue drivers run up costs of around £500 million every year.
About 1.4 million of the UK’s 34 million vehicle are thought to be uninsured. If the proposal succeeded in making the majority fall in line, the average premium for an honest motorist would be about £30 cheaper.
That modest saving might just be enough to ease the notion’s progress from brainwave to reality, given the inevitable accusations of malevolent Big Brother monitoring that the proposal is likely to attract.