The government was today urged to introduce legislation to force motorists to take car security more seriously. Otherwise, says the ABI, the Government's 30% target reduction in vehicle crime is unlikely to be achieved.

The ABI has published new research which it says puts the responsibility for cutting car crime firmly back in the Government's court.

It says that there is little point in premium discounts for older cars - the cars most often stolen - because they already produce fewer insurance claims than new vehicles.

The research - presented at a police conference on car crime in Luton - confirms that cars manufactured in the 1980s are up to ten times more likely to be stolen than those built in the last three years.

A new car carries a theft exposure - the number of theft claims divided by the vehicle years - three-and-a-half times higher than a car which is 18 years old.

The trend is similar for both comprehensive and non-comprehensive policies.

Similarly, new vehicle theft claims represent about six per cent of total claims, dropping to five per cent for a car ten years old or three per cent for 18- year-old cars.

"This means that there is no scope for insurers to introduce discounts and incentives for policyholders of older vehicles who fit immobilisers and alarms," said ABI deputy director general Tony Baker.

"It may be that a discount of only around two per cent could be justified and this would hardly be an incentive."

If the Government wants to cut car crime "legislation may be the only way forward to make sure they (motorists) do take security more seriously".

Theft of and from vehicles accounts for only 12% of motor insurance claims costs and only around half of recorded vehicle crimes ever result in insurance claims.

The ABI figures come during a week of reports about vehicle crime in the UK.

On Monday it was revealed that outside London, Manchester was the car crime capital of the UK. The Dewsbury/Batley area of West Yorkshire had the highest incidence of car crime of any town.

Meanwhile, a new method of recording the "true" crime statistics came into effect on Tuesday. The new method is designed to reflect the number of victims of crime rather than the number of incidents.

So instead of reporting a vandalism attack on five cars in a car park as one crime it will be recorded as five individual offences.