Fears MOT changes will increase unroadworthy cars

MOT changes

The annual MOT test is changing from next year. But many are concerned that these latest MOT changes won’t address the right problems in the right way. While millions of drivers currently forget to take their car in for the annual test, the government is only just trialling a very rudimentary reminder service. Even then, it’s not automatic; drivers must sign up for it.

Meanwhile, the age of cars no longer needing a valid MOT will change. This will add hundreds of thousands of old unchecked cars to the road and has sparked fears of more unroadworthy vehicles being driven. The Government is also holding a consultation into pushing back cars’ first MOT test from three to four years. Again, this is prompting concerns of an increase in the number of cars that are unfit to be driven.

Lack of MOT reminder sees thousands penalised

A new poll has revealed that nearly a quarter of drivers (27 per cent) are unaware when their MOT is due. And research by the website behind the study, Carbuyer.co.uk, has found that drivers who forget to put their car in for its annual MOT test are swelling the government’s coffers by around £7.5m a year. After mounting criticism, the government is now testing a reminder service to help drivers to remember their MOT.

Although car owners get a letter through the post to remind them to renew their car tax, there has been no such service for MOTs. The result has seen Britain’s 45 police forces sending out 424,316 penalties for driving without a valid MOT over the past five years. The typical fine for not having an MOT is a £100 fixed penalty notice. That can go up to £1000 if the case ends up going to court.

When cars no longer have a valid MOT the Driver Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) flags it up to the police. Law enforcement officers then use Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras to identify and pull over cars that don’t have valid MOTs.

MOT changes spark fears of more unroadworthy cars

Chevrolets like this Spark have a poor reputation for failing their first MOT

The government is currently examining the results of a consultation into changing when cars take their first MOT test. The existing law dictates cars take their first MOT test when they get to three-years old. However, the government is considering changing this to four-years old.

The government says this change will save drivers around £100m a year. However, it also recognises that cutting the 29 million MOTs, carried out annually by 22,000 garages, would harm garage owners’ revenue.

And safety campaigners believe it will lead to an increasing number of unroadworthy cars. Website Honestjohn claims if the new four-year system was now in place, there would be 385,000 cars being driven that would currently be declared unfit. It says DVSA records show one is six cars taking their first MOT test fails. The majority are rejected because of unsafe brakes, tyres and lights, it claims. These are usually down to poor maintenance by drivers rather than specific problems with the cars.

How the MOT test is changing

MOT changes
Classics like this Triumph Stag will no longer have to pass an MOT

From May 20, 2018, cars that are more than 40-years old will no longer need an MOT. It will mean cars from 1978 and before will no longer have to pass the annual test. The exemption will be on a rolling basis. Currently, rules state that only cars first registered before 1960 can get away without having an MOT. The changes will more than double the cars on the road not needing an MOT. The number will increase to around 490,000.

The government has changed the rules because it believes that older cars are generally kept in much better condition as they tend to be owned by enthusiasts. However, research showed that more than half of people (56 per cent) were against the new law. They believe the changes will lead to an increase in unroadworthy cars being driven.

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James Foxall

James is an award-winning motoring journalist with more than 20 years’ experience on national publications. He writes a popular consumer column for the Daily Telegraph Motoring section and contributes features to MSN Cars. James was motoring editor for the News of the World for seven years and has held senior editorial staff roles on Auto Express, Autosport and AutoClassic magazines.

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