The MID was created by the Motor Insurers' Bureau (MIB) in the first quarter of 2000. After development and testing, it went live in September 2001.

It is a database of every privately insured vehicle in the country. In total, there are about 29 million vehicles, of which 23 million are privately owned. The rest are fleet and motor trade vehicles.

The database was created to tackle the problem of uninsured driving. The MIIC, a wholly owned subsidiary of the MIB, says that the UK has one of the worst records in Europe for uninsured driving, with one in every 20 cars either uninsured or under-insured. It is estimated that this adds between £15 and £30 to every motorist's premium.

The Motor Insurers' Information Centre maintains the database and has now completed phase one of its development: to capture all the details of the individually insured vehicles.

Phase two, which is underway and will be completed during the first quarter of 2003, will capture the details of those vehicles not included in phase one - the fleet and motor trade vehicles.

This will also go a long way to meeting the Fourth EU Motor Insurance Directive, which aims to assist drivers who have accidents in EU states.

All members of the MIB update the database on either a daily or weekly basis. This keeps the information in the database up to date and allows insurers to check any vehicle's insurance details instantly.

The police also access it directly, either from the roadside using handheld computers, or from police stations.

This means the police can check whether or not a driver is insured almost immediately.

It is also an aid to insured drivers: if they are not carrying their insurance details with them, they no longer have to report to a police station within seven days of being stopped.