“Sure I only had six pints”

About a year ago I started to consider buying a car. Living in the city centre, which I have done for pretty much my entire adult life, I have no real need for one, but thought that having a car in order to learn how to drive would be useful. I could then sell the car after getting my licence, and then have the option of hiring one when I go travelling.

What put me off doing so was the cost. Not so much of the car itself, but the extras; fuel, tax, and maintenance of course, but the main prohibitive factor was the cost of insurance. Seeing as I would only use the car occasionally, at weekends going out of the city, the expense was certainly not justified, so I opted out. I did try, and fail, my driving test a few months ago. I rather arrogantly convinced myself that I’d be able to pass with a few lessons and no practice outside of that. How hard could it be? It seems that any idiot can drive. Oh well, I might try again in the future. It’s not a pressing issue though.

Regarding insurance, I do agree that cars should be insured by law. After all, poor driving, speeding, drink driving, and lack of attention while driving are rife in Ireland. But I also think that the insurance companies take advantage of this. Insurance in general annoys me, as it is designed to take advantage of people. I’ve been paying thousands and thousands in health insurance for years, to find out that, on the only occasion I’ve needed it (thankfully) was for a broken arm after a cycling accident a few years ago, the insurance didn’t cover the x-rays nor the second consultation because of the ‘excess’. Basically, I needed to do a lot more damage to myself in order to make the claim. I cancelled the appointment with the consultant anyway. My arm healed fine and has been perfect since. The worst part is that in order to get decent medical treatment in the country, one needs to fork out for insurance.

Anyway, I imagine that the insurance companies and the car manufacturers are collaborating together on this. After all, an older car, even in excellent working condition, costs a lot more to insure than a more recent model. The same applies to motor tax, though the disparity is not as glaring. Why is this the case? Well, it is a big industry, and having cheaper tax and insurance for newer cars incentivises people to keep upgrading their car. Thus more waste is created as old cars are scrapped, and more resources are ripped out of the earth to feed the demand for newer ones.

What brought this issue back to mind a few days ago was reading this report about a drunk driver with no insurance, who got off on a technicality, even though it was evident that he had crashed his car into a ditch after drinking ‘six pints’ (maybe more. I know in my boozy days, if I said I’d had six pints, this probably meant I’d had ten. And maybe a bottle of Buckfast… but at least I wasn’t driving). Thankfully, nobody else was involved. He didn’t collide with any other vehicle, nor hit a pedestrian or cyclist. The part that struck me most was the fact that he was fined, not for the drink-driving, but for driving without insurance. The fine was the princely sum of €250. Now, considering that car insurance costs many times more than that, how is that a deterrent? Pay a couple of grand in insurance if your car is ten years old, or  drive without it and get a small fine if you are caught?

I doubt this particular menace will lose any sleep over the fine, and will hardly be deterred from drink-driving again. These are the calibre of drivers us cyclists have to share the road with.

In the end, most people don’t need cars in the city at least. But the automotive industry is massive, and our dear leaders are all about big business. So providing better public transport, cutting down on pollution, and cutting down on waste by discouraging people from trading in their older cars are not on the agenda.

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