A new government website will tell insurers about our penalty points. Should we be allowed to look up other drivers’ records freely?
In June, barring mishaps and hair-trigger speed cameras, I will have held a clean UK driving licence for 40 years. You won't have to take my smug word for it: you will soon be able to check my official driving record online, but only if you know my postcode, national insurance number and driver number.
MyLicence, a website due to go live this summer, is the latest brainwave of the Government Digital Service, a team of Cabinet Office geeks designing 'digital by default' public services. These are the people who are also bringing us online applications for lasting powers of attorney and prison visits, to mention only the Ministry of Justice's part of the digital portfolio.
The site, currently in 'beta' development, will open the DVLA's database of penalty points. The main selling point is to allow motor insurers to check that people applying for cover are being honest about their transgressions. The Association of British Insurers reckons that one in five policy-holders withhold convictions.
The insurers say that by assessing premiums on individual drivers' records they will be able to trim premiums for honest drivers by an average of £15 a year. (On top of the money they're saving from the new RTA claims procedure, they'll soon be paying us to take out policies.)
Insurers will have access to the data through the Motor Insurance Bureau 'hub'. In future, the government is planning to give access to car hire companies, police forces and other European governments.
Individuals will also be able to check – though, as the scheme's name implies, the idea is that we shall be able to check only our own details. The site will eventually require users to identify themselves through one of the identity assurance schemes being planned by the Cabinet Office (I wrote about these) but in the meantime it will rely on postcodes and national insurance numbers.
But why should any proof of identity be necessary? A driving record is surely a public document and there are a thousand legitimate reasons why you might want to check another individual's – when employing them, or before lending a neighbour your car, for example.
I appreciate that my opinion may be biased by my own clean record and the fact I earn a living as a nosy parker. But is there a serious objection to my being able to check if, say, the person offering to give my daughter a lift to a party has a driving offence record as long as their arm?
Michael Cross is Gazette news editor