A government proposal to reduce the frequency of MOT tests could affect road safety in the UK, writes motoring campaigner Steph Savill.
Under the current MOT system, our cars receive a yearly inspection that includes critical safety items such as tyres, brakes and steering, to check they are roadworthy.
This first happens when the car is three years old and then each year thereafter, or 3-1-1, as it’s known.
Currently, more than a third of the vehicles presented for their first MOT fail the test.
Despite this, the government is considering changing our MOT system to the European model, where a car has its first MOT when it is four years old and then every two years thereafter, known as 4-2-2.
Apparently, this proposal is all about easing the financial burden on UK motorists but it fails to take into account the road safety implications and the job losses for mechanics as a result of this change.
The EU influence
But what ministers are not telling us is that the UK’s MOT test procedures are covered by an EU directive, and that in July 2010 the EU issued a communication about plans to harmonise MOT procedures across member states so we all might adopt the 4-2-2 plan.
The Department for Transport (DfT) confirms it wants to look again at the MOT, including the frequency of tests, to check it “has the right balance of testing for modern vehicles”, but says no decisions have been made.
However, motoring groups like my own FOXY Lady Drivers Club are very unhappy that it is even being considered.
Safety research evidence
Research commissioned by the DfT in November 2008 found that the 4-2-2 system would result in more than 400 additional deaths a year, compared to the 1857 deaths on our roads in 2010 under the current system.
The counter argument is, of course, that cars are more reliable now than when the test was first introduced in 1960.
But the fact remains that no amount of safety or reliability features will make a car safe if it isn't adequately maintained, regularly serviced and checked for road safety.
And we all know that left to their own devices, few motorists do this as well or as regularly as we should.
Motorists deserve answers
What we want to understand is why:
•The EU didn't choose the UK's MOT regime when the evidence is that this saves lives and could create more jobs;
• Our government hasn't said an immediate no to the EU, knowing that this proposal is likely to cost us lives and jobs;
• Our government favours this supposed money-saving move for motorists - the average MOT costs £54.85 so if cars only have one every other year motorists would save half, or £27 - rather than the simpler option of reducing the cost of road tax by £27. This option would also mean no job losses. Industry figures confirm there are around 18,000 garages employing approximately 50,000 MOT testers. If the number of MOTs is halved then half those MOT tester jobs could be lost.
This all seems to suggest that our government is prepared to kowtow to the EU regardless of the safety research evidence.
The likely outcome
Certainly many motorists will be glad to reduce the number of times they are expected to visit garages but few realise the genuine safety risks they could be running as a result.
The EU may force this legislation upon us much as it did with the gender equality ruling that will lead to increased car insurance premiums for UK women from December 2012. So it is unwise for any of us to imagine that common-sense is any form of defence when irrational decision-making is foisted upon us by the EU.
Mark my words, if the 4-2-2 MOT change happens in the UK it will not be in our best interests. Yet we appear to have no voice or choice when it comes to the EU telling us what to do, even when this could well cost us lives.
Steph Savill, runs the award-winning FOXY Lady Drivers Club, a motoring organisation for women.
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