Insurance hazard - Study finds most motorists driving without coverage
More than half the vehicles in Jamaica are uninsured, a statistic that is of huge concern to road-safety officials and one which the police consider “frightening”.
A study conducted by the Jamaica National Group, based on data culled from Tax Administration Jamaica and the Insurance Association of Jamaica (IAJ), shows that up to 57 per cent of vehicles were not covered by an insurer in 2016. Of a gross figure of 609,086 vehicles registered, only 259,269 were insured.
But other data which the researchers gleaned from TAJ and IAJ are in conflict with those statistics, indicating a slightly lower variation. That analysis shows that of 537,449 motor cars, motorcycles, tractors, trailers and trucks, 52 per cent had no insurance policies.
Peter Levy, president of the IAJ, disputes those numbers, arguing that his organisation estimates that a little more than two-thirds of vehicles are insured.
“We believe that the range of uninsured vehicles suggested in the [research] is higher than the actual figure. Our estimate is in the region of 30 per cent,” the insurance honcho told The Gleaner, adding that IAJ data indicate about 350,000 insurance policies.
“This is still too high in our opinion. That is why we are working with eGov Jamaica to bring online a database of insurance information for vehicles, to aid in enforcing the law and end the practice of forging cover notes and certificates,” said Levy.
The study was quick to point out challenges in ascertaining the exact number of registered vehicles and called for a coherent database of the country’s vehicle inventory.
“There seem to be some issues establishing the number of vehicles on the road based on TAJ data. Also, we should note that some registered vehicles are not in use, laid-up awaiting repairs, written off, stolen and scrapped, for sale and sitting on second-hand car lots, and so the owners may legitimately have chosen not to insure them,” Levy said.
He implored motorists to get insured despite sometimes prohibitive price points.
“One of the things we encourage people to do is if you have an insurance company that is telling you something that you don’t like, go shop around, because they don’t all operate by the same set of rules,” he said.
Vice-chairman of the National Road Safety Council (NRSC), Dr Lucien Jones, told The Gleaner that while he is alarmed by the figures cited in the study, he believes they could possibly be higher. He hinted that the IAJ insurance estimates could very well include fraudulent policies.
“If that number is indeed correct, then that is a huge number. It’s a manifestation of the rampant indiscipline and illegality happening in the country,” said Jones. “Part of the reason why so many people are driving without an insurance is because in many instances, people have forged insurance papers. They are complicit with other agencies, so there’s a big racket going on in the country.”
Jones said that while the NRSC was primarily focused on reducing traffic injuries and deaths, the non-insurance crisis was a major cause for concern.
“It’s the law, and it’s not just a matter of driving safe, it’s protecting those others who, in case there’s a crash, there’s some kind of compensation,” said Jones.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Calvin Allen, who heads the Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch, said many motorists are before the court for insurance breaches.
“We shouldn’t have none at all driving without insurance, but sadly – and the insurance company is the right entity that is in the position to give that sort of feedback – it is something that we have to look at and examine, especially against what we know when a person is driving without insurance coverage, and the injuries that one can sustain from a collision,” he said.
“That person has nothing to get because the vehicle is not insured, so it is very serious. It is a very serious and frightening revelation.”