Rising insurance costs forcing motorists to skimp on safety

Insurance increases and stalling cars sales have the motor trade worried

‘Our experience of previous periods of high insurances costs suggest that car maintenance will reduce, increasing the risk of accidents and the incidence of uninsured driving is also likely to increase,’ says Alan Nolan, director general of SIMI. Image: iStock

‘Our experience of previous periods of high insurances costs suggest that car maintenance will reduce, increasing the risk of accidents and the incidence of uninsured driving is also likely to increase,’ says Alan Nolan, director general of SIMI. Image: iStock

 

There is an increasing clamour for the motor insurance premiums in Ireland to be brought down. The Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) has claimed that the spike in the cost of cover has caused some motorists to pare back on vehicle maintenance and that this is putting lives at risk.

“Since 2013 motor insurance premiums have increased by 71.3 per cent and in the past 12 months alone, increases have been running at 38.6 per cent. With further significant increase in premiums predicted, this will continue to unfairly burden motorists and businesses, and is a particularly serious issue in the case of younger drivers and those on lower incomes,” said Alan Nolan, director general of SIMI.

“Our experience of previous periods of high insurances costs suggest that car maintenance will reduce, increasing the risk of accidents and the incidence of uninsured driving is also likely to increase. In the past when we had similar problems the establishment of the Motor Insurance Advisory Board (MIAB) and its recommendations in 2003 delivered significant reductions and improved the level of transparency in relation to the factors contributing to insurance costs.”

According to the AA, the cost of insurance went up by an average of €220 between 2014 and 2015, with higher spikes noted for cars in higher motor tax bands. For drivers of more affordable cars, especially those in Band A and Band B for tax, insurance is now approaching parity with depreciation in cost terms, whereas traditionally depreciation has been seen as the biggest single cost in motoring.

“SIMI is calling for the re-establishment of the MIAB as a matter of urgency. We commend the work of the recent Oireachtas Committee hearings and the current CCPC investigation,” said Nolan.

“However immediate wider-ranging action is urgently needed. In this regard while we await the re-establishment, hopefully, of the MIAB, the Society also feels that the CPCC’s Consumer section should undertake a general review, from consumers’ perspective, of motor insurance premiums seeking to highlight the issues, including underlying costs, which give rise to the current high level of motor insurance premiums and to make recommendations to the Minister in order to ameliorate the situation. Recent reviews of insurance costs in the UK has seen their motor insurance premiums fall to levels that are now lower than three years ago.”

Others are trying to trim costs in a different, and rather more controversial way. It has been received wisdom for some time now that tyres should be changed well before they wear down to the legal minimum of 1.6mm tread depth. In fact, most safety experts recommend that tyres should be changed when they reach a tread depth of around 3-4mm, as below that level tyre performance, especially in the wet, drops off rapidly. With tyres being the primary mechanical defect blamed for crashes, it seems like sound advice.

Michelin, however, reckons not. The French tyre maker is now saying that recommending a change to 3-4mm is placing an unnecessary burden on the motorist, and also adding damage to the environment. “Some manufacturers – including some premium manufacturers <NO1>-<NO>– have been advising motorists to change at 3mm,” says David Johnson from Michelin.

“Michelin believes that tyres should be designed and built to work effectively throughout their life and rejects the planned obsolescence advocated by some makers. Changing tyres at 4mm or 3mm costs motorists more money especially as fuel efficiency increases as the tyre wears and it increases the environmental impact of making and using tyres.”

While safety experts have criticised Michelin for the idea, the company is adamant that “the current legal limit of 1.6 mm is perfectly suited to the challenges of modern motoring. Michelin markets tyres that ensure optimum safety throughout the tyre’s longer lifespan, and save fuel due to limited rolling resistance. This is the only way of limiting excessive raw material consumption and carbon dioxide emissions, whilst allowing motorists to use their tyres longer in total safety.”

The question of increasing costs to the motorist (in spite of the falls in the cost of finance and fuel) seems to be weighing on the Irish motorist just a touch. September’s new car registration numbers fell by 1.4 per cent compared to September 2015 – not a massive number perhaps (it’s actually a mere 68 cars in the difference) but it brings to an end an unbroken string of rises in car sales since 2013. The fall, however small, has the industry worried though as it has happened before sales have returned to their pre-recession peak.

 

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