The worrying rattle of skeleton keys
Any driver van insurance holders should beware of a haunting new development in the world of van and tools theft: the remarkably effective skeleton key that is so easy to obtain that it can be bought by even the least sophisticated internet-literate thief. And in even more haunting news, the key retails for just £20.
Reports of the skeleton key's availability may help explain why there has reportedly been a surge in van and tool thefts across the United Kingdom in recent months, with one broker releasing data that reveals tool thefts to be up 30 per cent in England, Scotland and Wales.
News of the skeleton keys' involvement in thefts reached the public through two West Yorkshire builders who set up a social media page devoted to the topic. They were then interviewed by the BBC and told the news organisation that police had informed them that there had been a whole series of thefts believed to be attributable to the skeleton keys.
However, one of the builders said that police failed to properly investigate the theft of tools from his van. "They gave me a crime number and that was it really - forgotten about," said the man. "They said ‘it's a builder's van, there'll be no fingerprints, get yourself to work.'"
The skeleton keys are a standard tool for locksmiths; however, many within the profession have called for their sale to be better regulated.
"These are legitimate locksmiths tools," commented Steffan George from the Master Locksmith Association. "But they shouldn't be available to everyone. We would welcome a restriction of their sale."
It is also thought that skeleton keys could be leading to heftier insurance cost per theft. One broker said that it had recently witnessed a 40 per cent growth in the average value of any driver van insurance claims made for van break-ins.
Until more regulation is brought in to restrict the sale of the skeleton keys, any driver van insurance holders will just have to remain vigilant by ensuring that they lock their vans, park them conspicuously, and remove their tools from their vans whenever possible and that they always do so overnight.
Driving tips for Halloween - Beware zombies, ghosts and tiny witches!
Celebrating Halloween can be a creepy, magical experience, and while late October has its own driving dangers, when you add Halloween revellers into the mix, young and old, with their glowing pumpkins and crazy costumes, you have a spectacle which could be a dangerous distraction for any van driver.
If you are planning to be on the roads at Halloween, take a look at our top tips for Halloween van driving so that you and everyone around you, yes even the zombies, can be safe on the roads. It's essential reading for any van driver who might find themselves on the road this Halloween.
Remember, Halloween doesn't just occur on 31 October – there will be all sorts of parties going on around this time, especially the weekend beforehand – and this is the time you might find that some of the adult zombies on the road have had a drink or two! So beware.
Residential areas will be busier than usual
If at all possible, it's best to avoid residential areas on Halloween evening as the streets will be alive with groups of excited children, and perhaps even some tipsy adult revellers. Generally, the hours between 5pm and 8pm are when the younger children will be out, but after that, older ghosts and ghouls might have had a drink or two. If you must travel through a residential area around the time of Halloween, be aware of extra hazards.
Pro tip: Be prepared to stop at any moment.
Think twice about the speed limit
When driving through a residential area, especially if there are parked cars obscuring the pavements, simply sticking to the speed limit may not be enough. Safe, slow speeds are essential in residential areas during Halloween. Excitable trick or treaters could appear out of nowhere at every curb, crossing and junction and, to make matters worse, many of these children will be wearing dark costumes; they will also be excitable, unpredictable and, possibly, supercharged on sugar.
Pro tip: Slow is best around pavements and parked cars and vans.
Beware parked cars and vans
Okay, you don't want to look like you're slowly cruising the neighbourhood, possibly looking for trouble, but if you do find yourself in a residential area you are going to have to drive slowly and keep a constant lookout. Too many pedestrian deaths happen as a result of children suddenly coming out from behind parked cars, so if you drive slowly you increase your ability to react to the sudden appearance of a child, witch, wizard, zombie or alien.
Pro tip: Mini monsters can appear from almost anywhere on Halloween.
Don't hurry on Halloween
Whoever you are and wherever you have to be, there can be no justifiable reason for being in a hurry on Halloween night. Sometimes we just have to let go and accept that we are not going to get to our destination as fast as we would like. Vigilance is essential at all times when kids might be out trick or treating and there could well be delays for parties of children and adults who all want to cross the road at once.
Pro tip: Be patient when driving around trick or treaters.
Beware stopped cars
There is a high probability that any vans or stopped cars on the side of the road are dropping off children. Passing these vehicles can be very dangerous and you should always assume that a child might exit at any moment, even from a commercial vehicle – if you really can't wait, you should proceed with caution.
Pro tip: Be patient if a car stops in front of you.
During Halloween, good visual communication with other road users becomes more important than ever. So, as well as spotting the pedestrians around you, you should do your best to make sure they see you. The same goes for communicating with any other drivers: always use your indicators when turning into a junction and when pulling out or pulling in. And be sure to turn your hazard warning lights on if you are dropping your children off if this is obstructing other vehicles (although remember that putting your hazard lights on does not allow you to park illegally).
Pro tip: Make sure you can be seen when driving and make your driving intentions known.
Junction and crossing safety
Don't be tempted to rush out at junctions and crossings. Children often feel that it's safer to cross at junctions than at other points in the road, but, at Halloween, an excited child may just forget everything they've ever been told about road safety. So, be prepared for children, even quite old ones, to run out ahead of their parents. Always stop, always check for pedestrians and don't move until you are sure that it is safe and clear.
Pro tip: Wait a moment longer than usual at junctions to make sure no children are about to cross unexpectedly.
Beware the drop-off points
Driveways, local venues and other drop-off points can be busy on Halloween night. Proceed with extra caution and if you can't see clearly because there is a blind spot, or a stopped vehicle, you should take extra steps to check it is safe before you drive on.
Pro tip: If the road is busy or blocked, double check before moving off.
Mobile phone safety
DO NOT use a mobile phone or other similar device while driving. You should already know about the risks of using a handheld device at any time while driving, but at Halloween all avoidable risks and distractions should be eliminated. So, switch it off and eliminate the risk. The same advice goes for food and drinks, as well as any Halloween snacks. Wait until your driving journey is over!
Pro tip: Remove all distraction risks.
The days are getting shorter and shorter right now, so your headlights are required earlier as each day progresses. However, consider turning your headlights on even earlier than usual at Halloween as this will increase your visibility to pedestrians. You may feel like it's not dark enough, but it could make a great difference to whether a child or a party goer darts out in front of you.
Pro tip: Headlights on well before darkness descends.
Watch out for drunk walkers
Drunk pedestrians run the same risks of bad decision making and failure to properly gauge reaction times and speeds etc as drunk drivers. Unfortunately, Halloween, and this includes the weekend before the actual celebration itself, is a time when many adults will be out partying and this, for many, will include the consumption of alcohol. So, watch out for weaving witches, stumbling vampires, and zoned-out zombies. You may not be responsible for their actions but as it is Halloween you should be prepared to expect the unexpected.
Pro tip: Halloween for adults means drunk party-goers on the streets.
Halloween driving safety – be prepared
Basically, Halloween is a time when just about anything can happen on the roads. So drivers need to be really observant. Also, it's not just kids who enjoy the festivities, so beware any zombies driving vans or cars, just in case they are genuinely terrifying and have had a sneaky drink!
Be safe and enjoy the fun! And lastly, don't forget your van insurance!
Van thief takes owner for bonnet ride
Footage has been released of a any driver van insurance policyholder from Slough being given the (unwanted) ride of his life by a bold and opportunistic thief.
The 34-year-old delivery driver was briefly stopping on his rounds to make a delivery when the thief saw his moment, got in to the commercial vehicle, and attempted to make his escape.
However, he clearly did not bargain for the bold, bravery or, as some might have it, foolhardiness of the driver, who, in attempting to stop the thief, mounted the bonnet of the van even as the thief accelerated away with gob-stopping recklessness.
The thief continued to drive at dangerous speed before making a U-turn and braking in a successful attempt to shake off the owner who, remarkably, manages to land on his feet before frantically trying to flag down a passing car in an attempt to then follow his stolen van.
However, no one stopped for the dispossessed van owner, but fortunately, and thanks to the on-board any driver van insurance GPS equipment, the van was found later that day, as was the thief who has since been sentenced to six years in prison for his crime.
"Thankfully the victim escaped with extensive bruising, but it is not difficult to imagine what could have happened if he had fallen off in front of the van, or into the path of another vehicle," commented an officer with Surrey Police.
It is now known what the thief's defence for the crime was. It is possible to imagine that he might have claimed he misunderstood the meaning of any driver van insurance, but whatever the case, his most recent ride is as a passenger in a police van.
Police commissioner hints at new van hire regulations
The struggle of some tradespeople to find cheap van insurance helps explain why ad hoc van hiring is a surprisingly popular way to get a commercial vehicle on the road and on the job.
However, the fact that the terrorists behind the recent attacks in London used hire vans to carry out their atrocities, the second and third such instances in just three months, has called some to question the ease with which people are able to hire a van and, as a consequence, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, has suggested that new regulations might be brought in to try and reduce the possibility of such tragic events occurring.
Rental companies have already been instructed to take more care in determining exactly who is hiring larger commercial vehicles and have been told to report any suspected criminal activity to police. And now Dick has asked the London Assembly whether van hire "should be regulated in any way?"
"There's a whole big review to be done," she added. "I don't know. It might require some tweaking of legislation."
Although more stringent regulations might seem like yet another unwelcome administrative hurdle to tradespeople already struggling to find cheap van insurance, it should be noted that even if new regulations save just one life, they will have done their job, and there must surely be an intelligent way to regulate van hire that doesn't unfairly punish the operators of small businesses. Dick has recognised that more stringent regulation would be difficult to achieve but underlined her belief that doing so would involve a community effort.
The first attack in London involved the use of a Hyundai Tucson SUV, the second a Renault Masters and the third most and most recent attack, on a group of worshippers in Finsbury Park, a Citroen Relay box van.
Toby Potson, from the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association, told The Times newspaper that although his members uphold a "long-established set of protocols to enable the efficient reporting of any suspicious activity" and often do this with the added support of specialist security managers, he would seek to explore additional ways to "share information more effectively with law enforcement organisations."
Whatever the case, it is likely that added regulations will only serve to make cheap van insurance that little bit more attractive, when it can be found, of course.
Finding cheap van insurance is getting tougher
If your business relies in some way on your van, whether you're a sole trader or responsible for a whole fleet of vehicles, it's important to make sure you get the right insurance.
It's an unfortunate fact that insurance is on the rise for all road users. There are two main reasons behind this. One is the government's decision to cut the discount (Ogden) rate from 2.5% to 0.75%. What this means is that insurers now have to pay more compensation to victims of serious road accidents than previously, and higher value compensation claims mean higher premiums.
The second is the rise in insurance premium tax (IPT). IPT has been on a steady climb recently, doubling from 6% to 12% since 2015. These two factors combined have meant car insurance has hit a record high, rising 11% over the past year, as has been confirmed by the Association of British Insurers (ABI).
However, what's bad news for car users is even worse for van drivers. Consumer Intelligence has released its latest quarterly van insurance index, which has shown that the government's recent changes have led to a staggering 29.5% rise in annual premiums – that's two and a half times more than the average for car drivers, making the average premium for a van driver £1,636.
As John Blevins, the pricing expert from Consumer Intelligence explains, "before the Odgen rules came into effect in March, prices were rising by around 1% a month and then rocketed by 11.4% in April with the Insurance Premium Tax rise in June adding another 2%".
But why is this? Well, according to Consumer Intelligence, premiums are more expensive for vans than they are for cars because the costs of claims tend to be a lot higher. Payouts involving vans will usually have to cover any lost business the driver has experienced because they haven't been able to use their vehicle. And, vans tend to be more technologically advanced than cars so they're more expensive to fix.
But despite the rising costs of insurance, making sure your business is equipped with the right form of cover is an essential step. Choosing a lower level of cover that doesn't protect you adequately in order to save a small amount of money can be a false economy, because if an unfortunate event does happen and you don't have the appropriate insurance it could end up costing you a lot more.
There is also an upside, news that should help tradesmen feel a little bit better; drivers who have "carriage of own goods" policies, which are usually held by those who use their van for work, will generally have lower premiums than those who use it for a hobby or as a domestic vehicle. This is because, as their livelihood partly depends on their vehicle, drivers using a van for business are more likely to take care of it and are therefore seen as less of a risk. That's why if you only use your van strictly for work, you must make sure you choose the right form of cover – you could save yourself some cash.
Of course, with motor insurance set to hit a record high, any help finding cheap van insurance quotes is likely to be welcomed by all van drivers. iVan wants to help all van drivers find the best value quotes available without minimising on quality.
By getting a quote with iVan, you can be sure that you'll be getting comprehensive cover at the best possible price. Some of our customers have saved as much as 30% on the cost of their cover.