Huge rise in hit-and-run crashes

By Juliette MaxamA HUGE increase in the number of hit-and-run accidents in Essex has been partly blamed on more drivers who illegally take to the road without insurance.

By Juliette Maxam

A HUGE increase in the number of hit-and-run accidents in Essex has been partly blamed on more drivers who illegally take to the road without insurance.

There has been a 43% rise in "fail to stop" accidents in the county in the past four years, from 567 in 1999-2000 to 811 incidents in 2003-4. Serious injury hit-and-run accidents have shot up from 50 to 126 over the same period.

Essex Police officers have been also stopping rising numbers of motorists driving without insurance and this growing trend has been blamed for partially responsible for the increase in drivers fleeing the scene of road crashes.

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The figures were revealed as a draft report for the Department for Transport proposed new powers for police to seize and crush uninsured cars.

Drivers could even face jail if the measures proposed in the report, prepared by Professor David Greenaway, of Nottingham University, become law.

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It has advised a review of penalties, including making driving without insurance an imprisonable offence and a minimum fine of £200 for those brought to court.

Pc Dave Williams, who has been an officer with Bocking traffic police for 10 years, said Essex Police were stopping growing numbers of motorists driving without any insurance.

"We do get insured drivers failing to stop as well because there are so many penalties on insurance, but a lot of them are uninsured," he added.

Pc Williams said the proposals to clamp down on uninsured drivers with tough penalties would be "fantastic".

He added: "We'd feel we could actually do something. If a person was stopped before and previously convicted for no insurance, we will be able to take the car straight off the road and have it destroyed.

"A number of these uninsured drivers failing to stop cause an awful lot of heartache to a lot of people. If you've got a £15,000 car and the other person has no insurance, you've got to pay the excess, face an increased premium and possibly lose your no claims bonus. The only people losing out are law-abiding people."

Pc Williams said the rising number of people driving without insurance could be due to the general increase in cars on the road.

Prof Greenaway's report found uninsured drivers were more likely to drive carelessly, cause crashes and be involved in other criminal activity.

Last October, Essex Police traffic officer Pc Geoffrey Poyser was dragged along the M11 by a motorist whom he had stopped for speeding who turned out to have no insurance.

Pc Poyser had stopped the speeding car and arrested the man for disqualified driving, but after a struggle the motorist accelerated away, leaving the policeman hanging from the open driver's door.

He sped up to 70mph, braking suddenly, swerving across the motorway and trying to beat off Pc Poyser, who managed to persuade him to slow down to 30mph so he could let go.

Pc Poyser fell to the road and suffered numerous injuries, including a broken nose. The driver, Joe Butler, from Bognor Regis, was arrested two months later.

He was convicted last September of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm with intent, handling stolen property, assault and attempting to pervert the course of justice and was jailed for 11 years.

Butler had a lengthy criminal record and had been disqualified from driving on five separate occasions.

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