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Why you should print out your short term car insurance documents

You borrowed a friend's car for a few days and are happily driving down the road when you notice a blue flashing light in your rear view mirror. You pull over to the side, a courteous police officer asks you to step outside the car, a truck arrives to drag it off to a police pound from which your friend has to either retrieve it after paying a substantial fee or accept the fact that it will be crushed. You have done nothing wrong but you are still in this situation. What has happened?

The culprit is a system called the Motor Insurers Database which is a joint industry/government initiative to register every single car insurance policy in the UK. It is now childishly simple for police authorities to check on whether or not vehicles passing through their areas are properly insured; cameras using number plate recognition technology check the numbers against the MID and if they do not give a positive result a message is sent to the next patrol car down the line which intercepts the suspect vehicle. If the driver is unable to produce evidence that insurance is actually in place the occupants could be left to their own devices, if they are lucky (along with whatever luggage they are carrying) and the vehicle would be towed off to a police pound. Officially the police officers concerned are supposed to make reasonable efforts to find out whether or not a vehicle is in fact insured but outside working hours or at a weekend this could prove pretty well impossible.

Sadly the MID is not the most efficient database on earth and although the vast majority of insurers pass on details of new policies within a matter of hours at the most the database sometimes does not update properly for one or two days at least. Since the majority of UK police forces rely heavily on this database mistakes can and do happen, with monotonous regularity and usually with awful consequences.

The fact is that in a situation like this the onus would be upon you to prove that you had sufficient insurance cover to comply with, at least, the minimum requirements laid down by law. when you buy short term car insurance you should be given a link from which you could download and print all your documentation including the vital insurance certificate; you could avoid a lot of potential problems by doing so, and making sure that you have the certificate with you whilst driving the vehicle for the first few days at least.

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