A HUGE fall in car tax dodgers has been reported after a crackdown and awareness campaign.
As reported in the Echo, about 25,000 drivers across Wearside and East Durham were slapped with more than £2million-worth of fines in the first three years of a computer system set up to catch those without a valid tax disc.
But new figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show a massive drop in the number of fines issued in the area, with just 3,362 drivers fined a total of £268,960 between July 2009 and April 2011.
A spokeswoman for the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) said the computerised “Continuous Registration” system was just part of a “comprehensive package” of measures used to combat vehicle excise duty (VED) evasion.
She said: “A range of factors have influenced the increase in compliance levels, collecting around £5.7billion in VED every year on behalf of the Exchequer.
“New marketing techniques have effectively reminded motorists of the importance of licensing their vehicles.
“The availability of the online Electronic Vehicle Licensing (EVL) has made compliance easier for vehicle keepers.
“We have also found it beneficial in issuing a ‘last chance’ letter after the expiry of the tax disc, but before the introduction of penalties, which has drastically reduced the number of penalties being issued.”
But the DVLA said it will get tough on drivers who still fail to pay up in face of warnings.
The spokeswoman said: “Those who fail to license their vehicles can be subject to an array of enforcement resources, from automated penalties from the vehicle record, through to direct enforcement action such as the wheel clamping, impounding and, ultimately, disposal of the unlicensed vehicle.
“The use of debt collection agents to pursue unpaid civil penalties has reduced the agency’s costs.
“While impressing upon evaders that the DVLA is serious about tackling VED evasion, the combined effect of these has clearly helped to reduce the level of evasion.”
As well as robbing the Treasury of millions of pounds in revenue, car tax evasion also poses crime and safety issues.
Police say untaxed vehicles are often uninsured, have no MoT certificates and are not safe to be on the road.
The DVLA said the most recently-published statistics estimate the DVLA was successful in collecting 99.3 per cent of all car tax payable in 2011.
It said this showed the methods used to drive down car tax evasion were proving successful.