Fleet News

Driving licences: Online records could spark chaos

By Tim Williamson, head of the motoring team at law firm Blake Lapthorn

Motorists will have seen in the press recently that driving records will be going online from mid-2015.

The Government hopes this will reduce car insurance premiums; the rationale being that at present insurers are unable to check that the information given on insurance proposal forms is accurate and so have to increase premiums in order to cover themselves overall.

The argument runs that if insurers are able to cross-check the information, then the premiums will be more in line with actual risk.

So far, so good. Surely everyone wants cheaper car insurance? And when you think, too, that the proposals will mean the end of the paper counterpart licence (no more hunting high and low trying to find it for one reason or another) this is likely to be a popular move.

However, if there are no paper counterpart driving licences, then motorists will be at the mercy of the technology and the system.

Even the most ardent technophile would have to concede that no system is infallible. If driving records are available only online and there is a system failure, there could be chaos.

We have all seen the headlines about expansive and expensive IT projects that have been hit by costly delays and overruns.

Business drivers in particular might consider what happens when they try to hire a car.

All you want to do is complete the paperwork and take the car – but with all records online, the only way the hire car company can give you the vehicle is if they can check that you have a driving licence and are lawfully able to drive it away.

At the moment you can hand over your counterpart but that won’t work after 2015.

The DVLA does operate a verification service accessible by phone, but this is expensive and not operational 24 hours a day. 

Technology is a great thing and much use is made of it already, but motorists will only be relieved at the prospect of better use of technology in this digital age for as long as it works.

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