Need gas in the UK? Make sure your car insurance is paid up

A new proposal in the UK would use vehicle license plate scanners to prevent uninsured motorists from filling up.

Liane Yvkoff
Liane Yvkoff is a freelance writer who blogs about cars for CNET Car Tech. E-mail Liane.
Liane Yvkoff
2 min read

Drivers in the United Kingdom will have another thing to worry about every time they pull up to the pump. In addition to wondering if they'll have enough money in the bank to pay for the exorbitant price of fuel, they may need to check if they paid their car insurance premium on time.

In an effort to crack down on auto insurance scofflaws, the British government wants to team up with gas stations to identify drivers who haven't paid their premiums, and prevent them from filling up. The proposed plan will use automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras to scan vehicle license plates, and cross-check them with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency's (DVLA) database. Vehicles with records that show they have not paid their auto insurance or are untaxed will be prevented from filling up.

ANPR cameras are currently being used in many U.K. gas stations to prevent drivers from driving off without paying for fuel, but the difference with the new proposal is that they will prevent you from filling up in the first place if your vehicle records are flagged. The system's intent to pressure drivers to insure their vehicles is clear. Uninsured motorists, which in the U.K. is 1 in 25 drivers, pose a financial risk to other drivers on the road.

What isn't clear is the unintended consequences such a system could have if it malfunctions, or if it snares drivers due to a late payment or bad data entry. After all, if the U.K.'s DVLA is anything like most local DMVs in the U.S., the attention to detail is probably rather low and records could be rife with human error.

Being barred at the pump for any reason could cause a driver to miss important legal or medical appointments, or cost him or her a job. This proposal will certainly face consumer backlash if it ever makes it out of whatever committee is responsible for imposing Orwellian legislation. But it's already being protested by one group: gas station cashiers.

In an article in the U.K.'s The Mirror, a fueling station representative explained that attendants already face aggression from motorists due to high gas prices. Turning them into auto insurance enforcement officers, which is clearly out of their job description, could cause further and more dangerous confrontations with angry drivers.

Source: The Mirror