Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre Woodham: Debt trap for those who can't afford a car but need one

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Running a car while trying to survive on a low income is going to turn some poor people into criminals. Photo / Kenny Rodger
Running a car while trying to survive on a low income is going to turn some poor people into criminals. Photo / Kenny Rodger

It was hardly a surprise to learn that in a recent survey, motorists most likely to be driving older, unregistered, uninsured cars were those earning less then $25,000 a year.

The Motor Trade Association surveyed drivers at petrol stations up and down the country during April of this year and found that 14 per cent of drivers had no insurance at all and 15 per cent had third party only. Those stats are just going to get worse as insurance premiums increase and the cost of living keeps rising. People find themselves in the invidious position of not being able to afford to run a car and not being able to afford to do without one.

Public transport is bad enough in cities but it's practically non-existent in our smaller centres.

I was talking to a man on the minimum wage who's working on a farm. He needs the vehicle to get to work but he can barely afford to pay for his petrol, far less pay for insurance.

He had an accident that was his fault and is paying back AMI the $900 worth of damage that was caused. Now the car needs repairs to the tune of $700 and he's in despair. No car means no job - and the debts keep piling up.

It's all very well and good to say uninsured drivers shouldn't be on the road. But I remember a time when I was working for the minimum wage and the cost of running a car was near crippling. I would only use the car when it was absolutely necessary as I could only usually afford to put in $10 worth of petrol at a time.

I ran out on numerous occasions and I was lucky that my parents paid for the insurance for me. If I'd been fined for running an unregistered car, then had court costs added on top because I couldn't pay the fine - thus beginning a mountain of debt - I wonder whether I'd ever have been able to get out from under.

Running a car while trying to survive on a low income is going to turn some poor people into criminals.

- Herald on Sunday

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