New Garda system for detecting uninsured drivers comes into force

Hand-held devices will scan the registrations of passing vehicles and check them against databases provided by the insurance industry

A new system which allows gardaí to quickly identify uninsured vehicles has been formally launched by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee.

More than 13,000 gardaí working nationwide can now check a vehicle’s insurance status while on the roadside by checking its registration on the Garda Mobility App.

These hand-held devices allow officers to scan registrations of passing vehicles and automatically check them against databases provided by the National Car Test Service and insurance industry and roads safety authorities.

Following its introduction on a pilot basis in January, the new system has led to the seizure of 7,307 vehicles, with 1,840 having been seized in the month of April alone.

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The move was co-ordinated between the Departments of Transport and Justice, An Garda Síochána, Insurance Ireland and the Motor Insurers’ Bureau of Ireland (MIBI). It follows legislative change and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding agreement between An Garda Síochána and the MIBI.

The MIBI now provides the Garda with the insurance details of more than three million vehicles that are operating on Irish roads via the Irish Motor Insurance Database.

Anyone driving a vehicle without insurance can face significant penalties, including having their vehicle seized on the spot, a court appearance and five penalty points, as well as significant fines.

Research from the MIBI indicates that there is a high number of uninsured vehicles operating on our roads. In 2022, there were approximately 188,000 uninsured private vehicles in this country, meaning one in every 12 private vehicles were uninsured.

The research also shows that Ireland is among the highest-ranking European countries for uninsured vehicles – three times as high as in the UK and four times the EU average.

Launching the new system on Friday, Ms McEntee said the database was “an important tool for An Garda Síochána to detect and pursue those who drive on our roads without insurance”.

The information-sharing will play “a significant role in improving road safety”, she said.

“It is great to see first-hand the efficiency and effectiveness of the new technology that Government has invested in for gardaí – mobile devices, automatic number plate recognition, and information sharing technologies – all of which strengthen the ability of gardaí to tackle criminality and contribute to the improved safety of our roads and our communities,” she said.

“This is an important moment in the fight against uninsured driving, and one that has been several years in the making. The levels of uninsured driving have been too high in this country,” Minister for State at the Department of Transport Jack Chambers added.

“Driving without insurance is not only a crime, it is one that we are all paying for, as it increases the cost of insurance for all drivers by up to €35 per premium,” Minister for State at the Department of Finance Neale Richmond said.

Assistant Garda Commissioner Paula Hilman said gardaí were now in a stronger position to detect those breaking the law by driving without insurance. “Improved technology and data-sharing are helping to transform roads policing in Ireland and ultimately help An Garda Síochána to keep road users safe,” she said.

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