The driving force behind the withdrawal of the 'driving other cars' (DOC) extension appears to be the motor insurance database, the inability of the authorities to identify uninsured vehicles and what the industry perceives as now common practise of obtaining cover on a second car.

My understanding of the requirement for Road Traffic Act (RTA) insurance cover is that a certificate of insurance must be in force for a vehicle before it can go on the road.

The DOC extension is what it says, an extension to another policy covering another car. So unless the vehicle is itself insured, then it cannot be driven legally on a DOC extension.

While the RTA is not particularly clear, there are a number of reasons why I believe my understanding to be the case:

  • You cannot tax a vehicle unless a certificate of insurance is provided. A certificate with a DOC extension will not suffice
  • The policy provides only indemnity for legal liability as evidenced by previous legal case history, (for example, if a driver suffers a heart attack and causes injury or damage there is likely to be no liability attaching to the driver).
  • Consequently if someone is driving a vehicle belonging to someone else under a DOC extension, if an accident occurs as a result of a defect in the vehicle, which the driver could not be expected to be aware of, then the driver cannot be held liable, but the car owner may well be, and therefore should have insurance in place

  • The DOC extension applies only to vehicles which are owned by someone else, therefore policyholders cannot use this extension as a means of obtaining cheap insurance cover, unless the vehicle is legally owned by another person (possibly a family member for example). However as stated above, the vehicle would first have to be taxed and therefore initially insured by the legal owner.
  • Consequently when checking registration numbers against the database if there is no valid insurance in place then the vehicle should not be on the road and the owner (and possibly the driver unless he can prove he was unaware no insurance was in force) should be prosecuted.

    The production of a certificate with a DOC extension is irrelevant.

    The proposed withdrawal of this cover for the reasons stated in the article is therefore something of a red herring. I would suggest there are other underlying reasons why insurers want to withdraw this cover.

    There are supposedly millions of uninsured driver on the road, and the withdrawal of this cover would ultimately compound the problem, as there are many genuine reasons why policyholders could and would need this cover, particularly as it is extremely difficult, if not now almost impossible, to insure vehicles for "any authorised driver".

    John Leak
    Partner
    Anderson Ashcroft