Fleet News

Insurance: sobering thought for designated drivers

Michael Pace, partner and head of motor law and PI team, Andrew & Co LLP

It’s the festive season and many of you may be volunteering as a ‘designated driver’ to ferry others home from Christmas parties.

If driving your own car home sober, there should be no problem if spot-checked by the police, but if you’re driving someone else’s vehicle the trap may already be set.

You may think you’re covered by your fully comprehensive insurance policy to drive any other vehicle but, in my experience, it’s not always that straightforward.

In the ‘good old days’, when fewer people owned cars, fully comprehensive insurance, whatever your age, usually allowed you to ‘drive any vehicle which you do not own and is not hired to you under a hire agreement’.

Things have changed and the exclusions are often buried in policy booklets as one of my clients recently discovered.

If you’re under 25 years old and have fully comprehensive insurance it’s unlikely you can drive any other vehicle.

Even if you’re over 25, I’d still advise you to read your insurance certificate carefully along with the policy booklet small print.

Your certificate probably states you can drive any other vehicle with the owner’s permission and not hired to you under a hire agreement, etc.

But there may be an exclusion still requiring you to own a roadworthy car.

Certificates don’t always clearly refer policyholders to the exclusions in their policy booklets, which is where drivers fall into the trap.

It’s not uncommon now to see a clause stating that the vehicle you’re going to drive must also be insured in its own right.

I can only surmise the purpose of this clause is to allow insurers to get out of a claim.

Similarly, drivers doing their mate a favour could find themselves uninsured after the event, because the direct debit for the premium wasn’t paid that month, or the policy wasn’t ‘automatically renewed’, as before.

The upshot is, you could be driving an uninsured car and therefore be uninsured yourself.

This could bring six points and a fine, higher renewals, even disqualification and having the car seized by police.

It’s a sobering thought for ‘designated drivers’.

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