Matters Of Moment, June 1957

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The Great Insurance Grab

As if the cost of motoring isn’t high enough already, the “tariff” insurance companies will increase private-car and commercial­vehicle premiums from the first of next month. Nor are the increases small — the burden will range between 12½ per cent. for third-party cover and 331/3 per cent. for comprehensive insurance. 

These increases are to be imposed in spite of a period of considerably reduced traffic congestion. The Accident Offices Association complains that insurance companies lose money on motor insurance. If so, why do they continue to seek it? 

It comes as something of a shock to learn, vide The Motor, that comprehen­sive-cover premiums have increased by about 187½ per cent. over the last ten years. If, after that, the insurance com­panies still lose money, they should close their doors to this class of business; or they might seek a subsidy (from the Road Fund?) from the Government. Certainly, as motor insurance is com­pulsory, the Government should con­sider controlling the price at which it can be obtained. 

We do not pretend to know whether Nationalised motor insurance would cost less, or still more, than the present cover, but, finance apart, there would seem to be a great deal of sense in applying Nationalisation in this instance. The premium-receipt or cover-note could then form part of the Road Fund licence which has to be displayed on every motor vehicle. This would safeguard the public, because un-insured vehicles could easily be spotted, which would discourage their use, except by desperate criminals. Or, if the present clumsy system of vehicle insurance were altered to coverage for individual drivers, the driving licence could incorporate the cover-note. Because licences and premiums would expire together much paper-work would be saved — how ludicrous is the present arrangement, whereby a year’s Road Fund licence will be granted against a day’s insurance coverage! 

Perhaps the motor side of the great insurance network wants to be Nationalised? If it feels, on the other hand, that its house is in order, can it answer the following questions, which we put to the Accident Offices Association as troubled and puzzled motorists?

(a) If motor business can be conducted only at a loss by the “tariff” companies even with their existing heavy premiums, how is it that small yet reputable non-tariff concerns provide cover at far and away more favourable terms? 

(b) What possible justification is there for the Association’s “fixed price” premiums, which result in a driver with a long accident-free record being charged the same as a comparative novice? 

(c) In view of the fact that sports cars are usually owned by keen, experienced drivers who are proud of their driving skill, why are heavy overloads added to sports-car owner’s premiums? 

(d) If the answer to (c) is that insurance statistics prove fast cars to cost the companies more in meeting claims, can assurance be given that a premium for a sports Berkeley, incapable of more than 65 m.p.h., will cost appreciably less than one for a saloon known to be capable of over 100 m.p.h.? 

(e) In fact, why base premium charges on vehicle types when accident-prone­ness of the driver is the vital factor? 

(f) Finally, why should “tariff” com­panies refuse to cover, or virtually refuse to do so by quoting outrageous charges, a well-preserved, properly­-shod, powerfully-braked motor vehicle merely because it is of a make of which they have never heard, built several decades ago? 

If there are sensible answers to these questions which ordinary citizens can understand we shall he glad to hear them. If not, then placing control of motor insurance in the hands of a Government department could hardly make matters any more complex. 

Our advice to readers is, ignore the “tariff” companies, thereby relieving them of the embarrassment of incurring a greater loss, and deal with one of the smaller but more personal non-tariff companies who will be glad to do business even with owners of vintage and sports cars. Some of them advertise amongst the small advertise­ments at the back of this journal. 

Brooklands On T.V.

Nostalgic memories tinged with sadness were stirred for many motor-racing enthusiasts on May 21st by an excellent programme about Brooklands Track on the B.B.C. Television “First Hand” series.

Produced by Paul Johnstone and compered by Peter West, this documentary on the famous old Motor Course at Weybridge made very reasonable use of the 35 minutes allotted to it. Johnstone brought to the studio not only motor-racing personalities from the Brooklands scene, such as Lord Brabazon of Tara, Clive Gallop, Oliver Bertram, S. C. H. Davis, George Eyston and that gallant lady Kay Petre, but introduced to viewers Chitty-Bang-Bang II, the lap-record-holding Napier-Railton, and an engine-less twin o.h.c. racing Austin Seven. 

The B.B.C. programme was compiled with the aid of William Boddy’s triple-volume History of Brooklands. With your appetite whetted for the full story, we are pleased to be able to announce that this work has been completely revised and expanded by the author into a single volume of over 500 pages, containing more than 290 illustrations, which will be published on June 17th, the 50th anniversary of the opening of Brooklands, as a lasting memorial to the famous Track.