Am I Insured to Drive my Car During the Coronavirus Lockdown?
Here are some vital tips for drivers on how to avoid making their car insurance policy invalid during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The government has advised the British public to stay home as much as they can during the coronavirus crisis in order to reduce the spread, and has said that people are only allowed to travel on UK roads for essential reasons, such as :
- Going to the supermarket to get food or medicine
- Travelling to work if you cannot work from home and/or are a key worker (NHS staff/volunteer, teachers, etc.)
- You have a medical appointment
- You are helping an elderly or vulnerable person
- You are delivering medicine
Police are also urging drivers not to venture out in their vehicles to simply find a new spot to have a walk, partake in another form of exercise or walk their dog - people should do so from their home address if possible.
It is a well-known fact that if you use your vehicle against the terms and conditions of your policy agreement, your car insurance is likely to be invalid in the event of a car accident claim.
But are car insurance rules less strict now that circumstances have changed amid the Covid-19 outbreak? Is there a higher chance of your policy being void? This article will identify the situations in which you could be breaching your car insurance policy terms.
Coronavirus-related invalidations on car insurance
Since social distancing rules have been put in place and people have been told to stay at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives, the roads are inevitably much quieter - or at least, they should be.
A lot of drivers have been using the silent roads as an opportunity to speed, while those who have been panic buying and stockpiling have been driving around with too many items in their car, to the point where it could be blocking their vision.
It is important to note that if you have an accident and you were deemed to be negligent, it is likely that you won’t be able to make a claim on your car insurance policy due to you breaching the terms, and you’ll have to fork out for the costs yourself, which could be extortionate.
Nick Freeman - Renowned solicitor gives 10 tips to drivers
Specialist lawyer in traffic and speeding offences, Nick Freeman (otherwise known as Mr Loophole), has said that driving during the coronavirus lockdown could invalidate your policy.
He stated that “empty roads and the current state of lockdown may distract many drivers from thinking about staying safe and legal on the roads”.
He also said that according to figures from the Department of Transport, there was a 10% increase in the space of 24 hours on Monday March 30th, with many drivers being caught for outrageous speeding offences - one driver was caught speeding 134mph in a 40mph zone.
With this in mind, Mr Freeman has given 10 tips for drivers regarding their car insurance:
- If you’re out on the roads during the coronavirus pandemic and you are not travelling for essential reasons, this is likely to void your policy - so only go out if completely necessary.
- MOTs have been automatically extended by six months (if due on or after 30th March 2020), but it is still the driver’s responsibility to make sure their vehicle is roadworthy and safe to drive - you could be prosecuted if you’re caught driving an unsafe car, and if you have an accident in an unsafe vehicle, your provider is very unlikely to pay out. Garages will remain open during the crisis for any essential repair work or services.
- Due to complying with social distancing rules, cyclists on the roads are likely to take up more road space when cycling, keeping a safe distance between them and other pedestrians. If you’re involved in an accident with a cyclist, you could be deemed at-fault if you were not taking these measures into consideration.
- Speed cameras are still operating as usual, so make sure you stick to the limits, despite quieter roads.
- Many speed-awareness courses for drivers who have racked up speeding points have been postponed or are currently suspended, so if you do get caught speeding, you’ll probably be faced with a fine and points on your licence, rather than being offered to go on the course.
- Just because the roads seem much quieter, don’t be tempted to use your mobile phone at any time, as the UK road laws still apply.
- Just as with cyclists, drivers need to be extra vigilant and on the lookout for pedestrians who may be making the most of their ‘one exercise per day’ allowance. With the 2-metre rule, people may suddenly step out onto the road or cross to the other side to comply.
- If you have coronavirus symptoms and are self-isolating, do not drive - you are ignoring government guidelines if you do. Not only this, but Covid-19 could actually have an impact on your driving, and if you’re involved in an accident, you’re likely to be deemed the at-fault party and your policy will be void.
- Going for a casual drive is not to be seen as a way of ‘self-isolating’ - if you are self-isolating, your licence has, in effect, been automatically suspended, so you should not be driving out on the roads.
- Remember to check the dates of your warranty or service, and if you are unable to get them done due to the coronavirus outbreak, check with your manufacturer to see if this will void your policy or not.
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What else could invalidate my car insurance?
According to Compare the Market, underestimating your mileage when getting a policy could lead to your insurer refusing payouts in the event of an accident claim.
Some people may be going over their mileage limits as they may need to venture out more than usual during these unprecedented times and cannot use public transport as a result of coronavirus.
If it is a genuine mistake, however, some insurers may show leniency, but it you’re found to be going over the mileage purposefully, you’re likely to get caught out.
In the latter situation, drivers may even be blacklisted by providers, meaning that they’ll have to get specialist insurance, such as convicted driver insurance, and pay a higher price for their premiums.
If you think you may be reaching your mileage limit soon, it is always best to be honest with your provider and let them know straight away to see how they can help you.
Working from home
Depending on the 'class of use' stated in your policy, it could mean many people who are currently working from home due to the coronavirus crisis have an invalid car insurance policy and may be breaking clauses in their agreement.
If you have ‘social, domestic and pleasure only’ on your car insurance policy, then you are only permitted to use your vehicle to drive for personal reasons and seeing family members. However, with thousands of people working from home, they may be using their cars to carry out extra tasks during the coronavirus outbreak, which may be a breach of their policy terms.
In many cases, people with this type of policy may be using their car more due to being unable to use public transport - if so, you will need to let your insurer know.
Confused.com states that even dropping off a partner to their job could cause drivers to be caught out, so make sure you have the right policy for your needs!
I am a key worker - Can I car share?
A spokesperson from Public Health England said: “unless it is possible for people to be at least 2 metres apart in a vehicle they would not comply with government guidance on social distancing”.
So even if you are a key worker, you will need to arrange appropriate commuting measures so that you’re not breaching government advice. If you do this during the outbreak and are involved in an accident, this could mean your policy will not be valid.
Are car insurance providers relaxing rules?
Some car insurance providers have made the welcomed decision to relax some of the policy rules as a reaction to the coronavirus outbreak.
Some have stated that if people break simple policy terms in order to partake in the national effort to overcome Covid-19, their policies won’t be affected, and many companies are in the process of changing rules to suit drivers who may be forced into different situations due to the pandemic.
Admiral has confirmed that customers' car insurance policies will not be invalidated if they are driving to get essential items to those self-isolating.
A spokesperson from the insurance firm said: “If you’re transporting people, delivering medical supplies or equipment, your insurance policy with us is still valid.
Equally, if you’re doing less driving than usual because of your extra volunteering work, you don’t need to update your policy with us”.
Esure has also stated that customers using their vehicle for community support will not have their policy void or invalid.
As everything is changing, the best thing to do is to ring your insurance provider to find out if you are still covered and what circumstances may void your policy, despite the current changes that are out of your control.
What’s been said about car insurance and Covid-19?
The Association of British Insurers has said that drivers will still be insured and covered if they travel for essential reasons, while the Department of Transport (DoT) is currently working with car insurers to make sure that “people aren’t unfairly penalised for things out of their control.”
The FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) is urging car insurance companies to let their customers know how their policies may be affected during this difficult time.
Interim Chief Executive of the FCA, Christopher Woolard stated: “We expect insurance firms to recognise this and treat their customers fairly, recognising the circumstances customers may find themselves in.
We would not expect to see a customer’s ability to claim affected by circumstances over which they have little control.
Any customer concerned about their insurance should consider contacting their provider with any questions they may have.”