EU judges rule all motorised vehicles need cover, wherever they are used.
All motor-driven vehicles, even those used solely on private land, may soon legally require motor insurance following a ruling by EU judges.
This means things like sit-on lawnmowers, mobility scooters, electric wheelchairs and golf buggies will potentially need to have cover in place, which could cost up to £100 a year.
Under current UK law, only vehicles travelling on a road or other public place (apart from mobility scooters) have to covered by a motor insurance policy.
So motorised vehicles like golf buggies and sit-on lawnmowers used on private land don’t require the same level of cover as you need for a car or motorbike.
But EU judges have ruled that an obscure directive from 1972 contradicts these rules and all motorised vehicles should have at least third-party motor insurance.
Why the law might change
UK law may change following the verdict of a case involving a tractor accident in Slovenia.
In 1997 farm worker Damijan Vnuk fell from a ladder when it was hit by a tractor that was reversing. At the time the insurers that covered the tractor refused to pay out on the claim because the accident happened on private property and involved an agricultural machine.
But in September last year Vnuk took his case to the European Court of Justice, which ruled the accident should have been covered by compulsory vehicle insurance, despite taking place on private land.
The decision was pegged on the interpretation of the 1972 Council Directive, which sets out the rules for compulsory insurance and vehicles.
The case focused on the article relating to the definition of a ‘motor vehicle’, which in the directive is classed as anything “intended for travel on land and propelled by mechanical power, but not running on rails”.
This vague explanation led to the court ruling that compulsory insurance for vehicles according to the directive “must be interpreted” as covering any accident caused in the course of the “use of a vehicle” that is “consistent with the normal function of that vehicle”.
So as tractors are “consistent with the normal function” of a motor vehicle, the court says normal motor insurance rules relating to cars and motorbikes should apply.
When will the law change?
The ruling means EU Member States will have to bring a wider range of vehicles into the scope of compulsory motor insurance to comply with the directive.
Roads Minister Robert Goodwill wrote to the Chair of the Transport Committee in December to explain that amedments to the Road Traffic Act would need to be made “as soon as Parliamentary Time allows”.
However, with Parliament dissolved and an election coming up, that won’t be anytime soon.
The Department for Transport said it was consulting on how to comply with the ruling in the UK. A spokesperson told loveMONEY: "It is too soon to understand exactly how this ruling will apply in the UK. We are working with the European Commission and other member states to agree what it will mean in practice and these discussions are ongoing.”
So, for now at least, you won't need insurance for your sit-on lawnmowers, golf buggies and mobility scooters. But that may well change once we have a new Government in place.
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