Round-the-clock helpline has received an extra 1,000 calls a week and has helped police to seize an additional 700 vehicles
A pilot to help drive down the amount paid out by insurers towards accident claims involving uninsured drivers is drawing to a close.
The 24/7 police helpline, which helps police officers at the roadside to seize uninsured cars, has been running for just over three weeks and will end on Monday morning (18 November) at 7am.
The round-the-clock operation is being conducted by the Motor Insurers’ Bureau to see if there is a demand for the service during the extra hours and whether it has significantly contributed to the number of uninsured vehicles being seized.
The pilot was prompted by requests from police forces asking that the helpline, which started in 2007, be kept open for longer, and a recent visit from the Met Commander Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe.
During the pilot the MIB has received an extra 1,000 calls in addition to its weekly average of 3,000-4,000, with the peak time for calls received in the extra hours condensed to between 10pm and 2am.
The scheme has also helped police officers to seize up to an extra 700 uninsured vehicles.
Following its completion, the service, which has received support from about 50% of the industry, will return to its normal hours of 8am-9pm.
Several insurers extended their opening hours during the pilot and have provided the MIB with additional up-to-date insurance policy details.
MIB chief executive Ashton West said: “We normally close at 9pm, at the time then the criminals come out to play.
“And because there is a link between people who commit crime and who do not have insurance, by stopping uninsured vehicles the police very often find other criminality.
“That’s why the officers were keen for us to help into the early hours of the night. Criminality doesn’t stop at 9pm.”
After the pilot is concluded the MIB will ask for feedback from the forces that used the service the most, which include police in London, Manchester, Scotland and Thames Valley.
The bureau will feed the information back to insurers, who fund the MIB, to decide whether the hours should be extended.
Running the pilot has required additional funding for up to five extra staff, but West would not disclose further details.
“It is beginning to look as though there is a distinct and sound argument for extending the hours,” he added.
“Ultimately, the insurance industry has to analyse the benefits against the costs involved.
“But there seems to be a reasonably coherent argument that the police are getting benefit from it, which is significant [enough] to justify extended hours.”
Using the MIB motor insurance database, staff provide the officers with additional information on drivers, ranging from historical, motor trade to accident data – details that the police do not have access to on their car system.
Since 2005, the MIB has helped to reduce the number of uninsured vehicles on the road by almost 50%, by working with the DVLA, the Insurance Fraud Bureau and police forces across the country.
This has led the amount that insurers pay towards accident claims involving uninsured and untraced motorists to drop from around £400m to just under £280m.