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No insurance? No petrol for you

Des Toups

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CarInsurance.com

Closed-circuit television cameraThe British government is considering a plan to prevent uninsured drivers from refueling their cars.

Thousands of license-plate recognition cameras, put in place to keep drivers from leaving gas stations without paying, would be repurposed to cross check plates against the government’s tax and insurance records. Without a match for both in the database, the pump would not operate.

The government decided to make use of its omnipresent closed-circuit television cameras after a presentation from accounting firm Ernst & Young, which would help implement the new system.

"The key to this is simplicity. Connecting the existing technology ... is relatively inexpensive and wouldn't be a big information technology program" Ernst & Young partner Graeme Swan told the Telegraph. "There shouldn't be concerns about 'Big Brother' because there is no new database, no vehicles are tracked and no record is kept. It's simply a new rule of no insurance equals no fuel."

About 4 percent of British motorists are uninsured, compared with 13.8 percent of U.S. drivers. Vehicles with no insurance records are seized. The Motor Insurers’ Bureau says about 1,500 cars are hauled away each week – and 40 percent of them are never reclaimed.

As in the United Kingdom, liability insurance or some kind of financial responsibility bond is required most states. Only New Hampshire does not have such a requirement (though Virginia and South Carolina offer a novel workaround). Enforcement methods are left to states and vary widely. Some use automated license plate recognition technology to check for insurance from their squad cars; in others, drivers are asked to produce an insurance card on demand during traffic stops. (See “Do you look like you have insurance?”)

Some British petrol retailers said the proposals were a “step too far.”

Brian Madderson, from RMI Petrol, which represents independent petrol stations, told The Mirror: “This proposal will increase the potential for conflict. Our cashiers are not law enforcers.”

If it all seems a bit Big Brother-ish, take off for a relaxing day in France.

Just bring your portable blood-alcohol testing kit – mandatory equipment in every car on French roads beginning July 1. (See “License, registration and breath test.”)

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