The number of uninsured vehicles on Irish roads increased by almost 14,000 last year, according new figures from the Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland, something which it says "should worry every single Irish road-user".
There were just under 165,000 uninsured private vehicles in the State at the end of 2019, an increase of 13,683 on the same time in 2018.
This accounts for 7.58 per cent of the 2.2 million-strong private vehicle fleet in the State, MIBI found.
The increase, from 7.16 per cent to 7.58 per cent, means that one in every 13 private vehicles on Irish roads is now uninsured.
David Fitzgerald, the chief executive of the MIBI, said the figures "show the problem of uninsured driving has grown significantly over the last few years".
“A jump of almost 14,000 uninsured vehicles in a single year is a statistic that should worry every single Irish road-user. Uninsured drivers are a threat to road safety for the law-abiding majority of private vehicle drivers, making Irish roads less safe and a lot more hazardous.”
The bureau does not believe any one factor has driven the increase.
The number of uninsured drivers is taken by combining aggregate official figures provided by the Department of Transport and cross-referencing them with insurance and motor taxation data.
The MIBI also flagged concerns around weaknesses in the economy associated with Covid-19. “We are certainly concerned that with the economy facing a difficult period there may be an even further increase in the level of uninsured driving.”
MIBI was established in 1955, and its primary function is to manage payouts to the victims of traffic incidents caused by uninsured or unidentified vehicles. Companies underwriting insurance in Ireland are required to be members of the organisation, and the organisation’s funding comes from these companies.
The bureau has called for the urgent implementation of a motor third-party liability insurance database, which in turn would support a system to allow the Garda identify uninsured vehicles by scanning their licence plates.
The system, known as automatic number plate recognition (ANPR), is already running on a trial basis, and “has had a tremendous impact based on feedback provided by An Garda Síochána”.
Such technologies, Mr Fitzgerald said, “will be a strong weapon in the fight to apprehend any individuals who recklessly think they can treat motor insurance as optional”.
“Motor insurance is a legal obligation for a reason. With ANPR those who do not respect that principle will be rolling the dice in a game where the odds will be truly stacked against them.”