SORN and motor insurance - current position
To combat the menace of the large number of uninsured drivers on the road in the UK, the Government and its agency the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency or DVLA have instituted various measures to improve the reliability of the DVLA driver and vehicle database. This is of course to the ultimate benefit of the honest driver, but unfortunately some of the procedures have tended to make the system rather less forgiving of casual forgetfulness. So members are strongly advised to make diary notes or mark up a calendar with the expiry dates of the three vehicle documents for their classic MG so their expiry is not overlooked by mistake. Those documents are the road tax disc or SORN (Statutory Off Road Notice), the annual MOT test certificate and the motor insurance certificate.
(31.7.08)

Road tax disc or SORN
The system of continuous registration, dealt with in our previous SORN notes, is basically very straightforward. All vehicles, unless already off the road when the system was introduced, must always be either taxed for the road, either as a historic vehicle or with the appropriate vehicle excise duty paid, or they must be the subject of a SORN notice. Failure to have either in place will result in a demand of a penalty of £80 from the DVLA. There are various subtle and not so subtle points about the system dealt with in previous notes in this series.

You can access certain information from the DVLA database online which enables you to confirm the details they hold for a vehicle are correct including whether the vehicle is taxed or SORNed and whether either is due. Go to www.taxdisc.direct.gov.uk and press the Vehicle Enquiry button.

MOT test certificate
The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) maintains the database of all MOT test results. You can check if your vehicle is on the database by using their website at www.motinfo.gov.uk but you will need the document reference number from the V5 to make the check. Please note that to complete a relicensing of your vehicle, either online or inperson at a Post Office or DVLA office, the MOT will need to be valid on the first day the new disc comes into force.

Motor insurance certificate
Various measures have been put into place with a view to cutting down on uninsured driving, the most significant being the Motor Insurance Database (MID) which records in a central database of which vehicles are currently insured. The advantage of this to the car owner is that a tax disc can be obtained online without the need to present documents at a Post Office. The advantage to the police is that using Automatic Number Plate Recognition technology in conjunction with that database they can check vehicles on the road without having to stop them. If they find a vehicle which appears
to be uninsured, they have the power to impound it until a current certificate of insurance is produced. Unlike the MOT database, the MID may not be updated instantly, so there is a danger of being caught if insurance is not in place in good time. Mistakes have also been known in recording information, so you are recommended to check that the MID entry for your car is correct. This can be done at www.askmid.com

Requirement to insure vehicles which are not covered by a current SORN

The Road Safety Act 2006 contained measures that required every vehicle that was not covered by a SORN to be insured for use on the road - Insurance from the Record. At the time of writing in July 2008 this provision had not yet been implemented, not was there any indication of when it might be. There was much publicity given to this provision at the time, so quite a number of people are under the mistaken impression that it is currently in force.

Caution regarding monthly payment insurance schemes
Another warning about insurance is that you should be very wary of schemes where the insured has to pay the premium on a monthly basis. If anything goes wrong with the payment in any month, the insurance company may be very quick to cancel the insurance, leaving you without cover.

Caution regarding insurance cover if you permit another person to drive your car

And one more thing, the penalties for permitting anyone to drive your car without motor insurance cover are exactly the same as driving without insurance, so be very sure any other driver of your car is covered properly. This caution will apply if you are selling your car and a prospective purchaser wishes to test drive the car. In such cases you should remind the person arranging to view the car that they should bring with them evidence of their motor insurance so you can check they have cover to drive other vehicles. Whilst they may have cover for the legal minimum requirements, the scope of that cover may not be comprehensive, so should an accident occur during a test drive full reimbursement of any losses as a consequence of damage to your car may not be recovered from any claim under that cover. In that case you would be left seeking reimbursement from the person undertaking the test drive.

An additional caution regarding test driving of cars for sale by prospective purchasers
Under no circumstances should you leave the prospective purchaser in the car alone with the keys or leave the keys in the car. Sadly there have been cases where a prospective purchaser has simply driven off with the car! Any insurance claim for the loss of the car or damage will inevitably require an explanation of your duty of care in allowing the thief to have possession of the ignition key and to sit in the car alone so the car could be drive off and thereby stolen.

Information provided by Chris Hunt Cooke
For more road tax, SORN and motor insurance items see our running index. More