Motor insurers have been warned that they will be denied access to the details of penalty points unless they reduce premiums for more careful drivers.
New regulations have been signed by Leo Varadkar, the transport minister, allowing motor insurance companies access to part of the penalty points database.
The measure will allow insurers full access to details of serious offences which have incurred penalty points. This will allow them to check the number of points a driver has and, for the first time, what those points are for.
The new measure will give insurance companies reliable and up-to-date information from the National Vehicle Driver File on serious offences which have incurred penalty points.
Insurance firms already have access to the file to verify the number of penalty points incurred by individual drivers, but will now be able to determine whether an offence involved drink driving, speeding, using a mobile phone, or any of the 13 specific categories of serious offence.
Welcoming the decision yesterday, the AA’s insurance division, which has 120,000 customers, said it viewed the new regulations as bringing in a fairer system for everyone — insurers and motorists.
The AA said it expected premiums would rise for those who committed the most serious offences, like drink and drug-driving.
“We regard this as progress and see it as good news,” said a spokes-woman. “It will allow insurers to distinguish more clearly those who engage in dangerous driving behaviour and those who are more careful.”
Her view was echoed by Axa chief executive John O’Neill.
“Visibility of penalty points to insurers should mean that the riskiest drivers can be identified and asked to pay more,” he said.
Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, Mr Varadkar said his department would monitor premiums to ensure that careful drivers were not subsidising the premiums of those who were more reckless.
He said that if insurance premiums did not fall for careful drivers, his department may limit insurance companies’ access to the database.
“One thing that we have said to the insurance companies, and we have said it very clearly, is that we will be monitoring premiums and we reserve the right to withhold this information from them in the future,” he said. “So if we discover that they are using this information to their advantage and not to the advantage of their customers, well then they won’t get the information any more.”
He added: “So they’re kind of on probation for the next year of two to see how they use the information.”
In a statement earlier, Mr Varadkar said: “This is about road safety, and rewarding motorists for safe behaviour. Last year was the safest on record on Irish roads, but it’s vital that we don’t let the good work go to waste. That’s why we have to keep our focus on developing new measures and new policies to keep a solid focus on road safety, and to save lives.
“Later this year we will launch the new Road Safety Strategy as part of a major EU conference which will contain further measures, and which aims to make Ireland one of the best countries in the EU for road safety.”
The regulations — included under the Road Traffic Act 2010 and signed into law last year — will be implemented across insurance firms on a phased basis over the next year. The Irish Insurance Federation has paid part of the cost of the new electronic sharing system, which the Department of Transport says is compliant with data protection law. It said it had reached with the Irish Insurance Federation and the Data Protection Commissioner to provide specific information on the 13 specified penalty point offences.
There are currently 2.67m licensed drivers in Ireland, of whom 487,000 have penalty points. Some 80% of these drivers have fewer than four points.
In 2012, some 200,500 penalty point notices were issued to 179,000 drivers.
So far this year, 5,015 penalty point notices have already been issued to 4,971 drivers.
Insurers will be able to access penalty point information relating to:
Holding a mobile phone while driving
Driving without reasonable consideration
Driving dangerously defective vehicle
Driving without insurance
Using vehicle without test certificate
Failure by driver to comply with front seatbelt requirements
Failure to obey traffic lights
Crossing continuous white line
Penalty point offences that attract a mandatory court appearance.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved