The number of uninsured private vehicles operating on Irish roads increased by almost 14,000 last year, according to new figures released by the Motor Insurers' Bureau of Ireland.

At the end of 2019, more than 164,000 uninsured private vehicles were on Irish roads, an increase of over 13,000 from the same time a year earlier.

The figures suggest that one in every 13 private vehicles on Irish roads is uninsured.

The MIBI believes these latest statistics emphasise the need for the urgent implementation of an automatic number plate recognition system.

It said this would allow gardaí to identify uninsured vehicles by scanning their licence plate.

However, MIBI Chief Executive David Fitzgerald has said before the project, which is now being piloted in parts of the country, is rolled out nationally technical changes to the Road Traffic Act are needed.

He said this cannot happen until a new government was formed.

The MIBI also said that future economic uncertainty could lead to a further increase in the number of uninsured drivers in the country.

Mr Fitzgerald told RTÉ's Morning Ireland that insurance "is not an optional extra" as he urged those driving without insurance to consider the severe penalties of being caught by gardaí.

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He said the number of uninsured drivers is alarming and explained that the figures are compiled from various sources which give an "accurate estimate".

Mr Fitzgerald said the figures emphasise the importance of implementing the new detection system using automatic number plate recognition, which allows gardaí to identify uninsured vehicles by scanning their licence plate. 

He said this technology will "tighten the net" and make it easier for gardaí to identify uninsured vehicles.

This system will require the Road Traffic Act to be amended to allow the MIBI to safely pass information onto the gardaí.

Mr Fitzgerald said the penalties are severe for those caught without insurance.

These include that a vehicle can be seized on the spot with the driver left on the side of the ride, an automatic court appearance and five penalty points as well as substantial fines.

Where insurers compensate the victims of an accident involving an uninsured driver, they also have the right to recover the costs of the claim, which can average in excess of €50,000. 

He said that is "a substantial bill to face".

He said the MIBI estimates that uninsured drivers add €30-€35 to everyone's motor policy.