It has become apparent that insurance companies are applying an unfair loading to motor insurance policies for elderly people. Premium costs have been rising rapidly for several years, with motorists having loadings imposed on their policies for different reasons. The most annoying reason of all is where insurers have applied substantial increases because of drivers' ages. Pensioners, who have limited incomes, are bearing the brunt of unreasonable motor insurance increases. I recently dealt with an elderly constituent whose insurance had increased by almost 50%, which amounted to a rise of €400, for no other reason than his age. Clearly, it does not pay to be elderly. These exorbitant insurance increases will have a devastating effect on elderly people living in rural areas who are dependent on their car to go shopping, attend the doctor and visit family, thereby increasing the likelihood of their being isolated from the local community.
It will also impede their ability to do the most basic of tasks. This will have a serious effect on their mental well-being and quality of life. The problem in this context is not the elderly. They have proved to be safer drivers and less likely to drink and drive, take illegal drugs or speed. Statistics have shown that licence holders over the age of 60 represent a tiny percentage of those who have received penalty points.
Will the Minister ensure that the needs of elderly people with regard to car insurance are taken into account by the cost of insurance working group? What steps will the working group take to end the discrimination against the elderly? Will the working group also give consideration to the recommendation in the report of the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform and the Taoiseach on the rising cost of motor insurance that insurance companies be compelled to inform the consumer whether they have taken into account the mandatory medical assessments of drivers over the age of 70 when calculating insurance premiums and where insurance companies have disregarded medical assessments, they should clearly state the reason for doing so.
Other research in Europe has shown that children involved in crashes where their grandparents are driving are at half the risk of injury compared to when their parents are driving. It is also evident that if an older person is driving a car that is ten years old or older, they will be hit with a double whammy in that they will incur a loading on their premium. This is a serious issue. It affects, in particular, people living in rural areas. Age Action Ireland has recognised this problem and it has quoted a number of cases where this practice has taken place and it has named those cases.
I ask the Minister of State to consider this issue and to come back to me with some solutions or to let me know how these insurance companies can be dealt with. It is a scandal that older people, who have given so much service to this country, are ending up being penalised when they reach a certain age.