Road safety campaigners join forces to oppose "insane" plan to switch to two-year MOT regime

Government proposals would result in 250 more deaths on Britain's roads each year, claim opponents

by Simon_MacMichael   October 28, 2011  

Car wheel at speed copyright Simon MacMichael.jpg

More than 25 companies and organisations concerned with road safety have joined forces to oppose proposed changes to the MoT system, which will see vehicles tested every two years instead of annually. It is claimed that the planned change to the system – described as “insane” by one high-profile motoring journalist – would result in 250 more deaths and 2,200 serious inuries on the road each year.

The campaign, called PRO-MOTE, has been launched partly in response to a statement at the recent Conservative Party Conference by former Secretary of State for Transport Philip Hammond that the Government is considering ways “to reduce the burden of the MOT test”.

Hammond is the man who declared an end to the so-called ‘War on the Motorist’ after the Coalition Government came to power last year, implementing measures including a 60 per cent cut in the Road Safety Grant and discontinuing funding for  new speed cameras.

PRO-MOTE, whose members include British Cycling, Brake, the RAC, the AA, Kwik Fit, Halfords, Aviva and the Retail Motor Industry Federation, now want to put pressure on Hammond’s successor to the post, Justine Greening, to maintain the status quo.

In a report published this week, Dangerous, Expensive and Unwanted: The case against reducing MOT frequency, PRO-MOTE says that each day, 2,200 vehicles are assessed as “dangerous to drive” as a result of the current annual system, a figure that would be bound to rise if the MoT were required only every two years.

The situation is likely to be exacerbated by the propensity of motorists to cut back on expensive but nonetheless essential repairs given the current economic climate.

The two-yearly regime would also mean that many defects would go unremedied for longer, in many cases worsening and ultimately resulting in more expensive repair bills. According to insurers, that would also mean a greater likelihood of road traffic incidents, with a knock-on effect on motor insurance premiums. PRO-MOTE estimates the ultimate cost to the British economy as “likely to run into billions of pounds.”

Moreover, PRO-MOTE insists that the proposed change does not have the support of motorists, citing a survey by the MOT Forum which found that 92 per cent of respondents favoured an annual rather than two-yearly MOT, while only 13 per cent of AA members polled thought they would save money if testing were switched to every other year.

The former Labour Government ruled out changing the MOT regime following a study in 2008, based on 2005 Department for Transport road casualty statistics, that predicted 3,000 more deaths and serious injuries each year if the frequency of MOT testing were change.

PRO-MOTE says that using 2010 figures, such a move would lead to 250 more people dying on Britain’s roads, and 2,200 being seriously injured each year.

The then Road Safety Minister, Jim Fitzpatrick, told the House of Commons: “Our analysis suggests that a significant number of additional road traffic accidents would be likely if MOT test frequency was reduced.

“This is primarily because the annual MOT failure rate is already high—around 35 per cent.—and if we were to reduce test frequency there is a very real risk that the number of unroadworthy cars would increase significantly. In turn, the number of road casualties would inevitably increase.  

“Clearly any significant increase in road traffic accidents or in the number of road casualties would be a wholly unacceptable outcome; and, for that reason, our view is that the MOT test frequency should remain unchanged.”

Certainly, while they were in opposition, the Tories expressed strong agreement with that view and with keeping the existing system of annual MOT checks.

Responding to the decision to abandon the proposals, the Shadow Road Safety Minister at the time, Robert Goodwill, told The Daily Telegraph: “This botched policy idea should never have seen the light of day.

"If it had been given the green light we would have faced a situation where there were thousands of dangerous cars on our streets putting people's lives at risk.

"This is yet another one of Gordon Brown's big flagship policies that has been consigned to the dustbin of history.”

What a difference  three years and an intervening change of government makes.

Writing earlier this year in the Sunday Mirror, motoring journalist and TV presenter Quentin Wilson said of the Coalition Government's plan to introduce two-yearly MOT tests: “It’s insane, and a misguided political gesture to ‘help the motorist’. Most car owners don’t even check the oil, let alone tyres or brakes, so such a folly would store up problems.

“Back in 2008, a Department for Transport report concluded that changing to a two-year system would “increase deaths and serious injuries significantly”. Half the cars on UK roads are over six years old, so I’d call it a recipe for disaster.”

Commenting on the launch of the PRO-MOTE campaign this week, Julie Townsend, chief executive of Brake, said: “As a charity supporting families whose lives are devastated by road death and injury, we are aghast that the Government is considering such an appalling backwards step.

“We should be doing everything we can to stop people being killed and injured on roads, to prevent families suffering so terribly, and to reduce the economic burden of these casualties.

“That means having a robust system to ensure vehicles are roadworthy.

“Downgrading the system so MOTs are only required every two years is a nonsensical and inhumane policy that would mean many more needless tragedies."

A British Cycling spokesman told road.cc: "We need a robust system to ensure that all motor vehicles on our roads are safe to drive. Reducing the frequency of MOT testing would be a retrograde step and inevitably compromise road safety, particularly for vulnerable road users. British Cycling represents the interests of our 40,000 plus members and that's why we are fully behind PRO-MOTE's campaign objective."

14 user comments

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About half way down i got bored

an MOT is only a piece of paper saying your car was in a road worthy state on the day it was tested, just because you have an MOT doesn't mean your car is still road worthy a month down the line

So i can see the arguement for not increasing it, but what i can't work out is how they can predict road deaths if its increased to bi-annual testing Thinking Like a new car doesn't have to have one for 3 years, does that still stand??

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8686 posts]
28th October 2011 - 16:07

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Sorry you didn't make it to the end, Gkam84 - perhaps not the most riveting Friday afternoon reading Wink

Not sure whether you got to the quote from former Road Safety Minister Jim Fitzpatrick, but it's a good summary of some of the argument against:

"This is primarily because the annual MOT failure rate is already high—around 35 per cent.—and if we were to reduce test frequency there is a very real risk that the number of unroadworthy cars would increase significantly. In turn, the number of road casualties would inevitably increase."

One thing Hammond spoke about as Sec of State for Transport (and which is covered in the PRO-MOTE report) is increasing the length of time before a vehicle's first MOT from 3 to 4 years.

That alone is forecast to cost 35 people their lives each year.

The initial forecasts (the ones compiled in 2008) were from the Department for Transport based on its own data of road casualties, and I think can be regarded as pretty robust.

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7914 posts]
28th October 2011 - 16:41

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Just to state for the record, i'm NOT in favour of it changing, in fact i'd love to see 6 month MOT's if it were cheap enough for the normal car owner to afford

But the line "In turn, the number of road casualties would inevitably increase" gets me some what, because an MOT is not just a simple pass/fail at the moment, there are many things that can pass but are "borderline" for instance.....

Tires, the can be JUST on the legal tread limit and will pass an MOT, but you could drive 40 miles and them be under the limit, but not have them changed for 6 months

You wing mirror may be present at MOT and fall off as you leave the garage and unless stopped or reported, you may not replace it till the next MOT

Suspension could be working at MOT and your driving home and hit a large pot hole and it breaks, you could get away driving it around for a while

I could go into many more possibilities, but wont bore you with them, The reason i know about MOT's is between my close family they have several garage's with testing for MOT's

If anything was to be changed, i'd rather see a tightening of the pass and fail limit's, I just don't think its as black and white as the government nor the guys against it are trying to make out

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posted by Gkam84 [8686 posts]
28th October 2011 - 17:22

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What a load tosh. What a spin saying death rates will increase.

As mentioned here MOT is a as good as the day the car is tested.

Most modern cars are far more robust then 10 years ago. Why do you think see 5+ warranties being given?

Bloody car industry seeing something that they see as an easy money maker going down the pan.

Twice I had to appeal a cars MOT failure due to the garage trying to pull fast ones (both Kwik Fit).

Get's my full support bi-annual MOT.

posted by gazzaputt [179 posts]
28th October 2011 - 18:00

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Current failure rate of 35% means that 1 out of every 3 cars driving past you as you ride your bike could have a potentially dangerous fault.

OK, I know that some MOT fails like "cracked light casing" or "chipped numberplate" are hardly life threatening but for most people an MOT is the only time their car gets any sort of service and any faults like tyres/brake wear gets picked up on.

I'd like to see MUCH stricter testing of cars, roadside checks, instant confiscation, the full works but that one isn't a political winner...

posted by crazy-legs [486 posts]
28th October 2011 - 21:52

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I just had to scrap my old Saab because the rust worm had worried its way into one of the rear suspension points. had it not had a simple problem with the fuel injection management system and an MOT due anyway, I'd have been driving a car with a serious mechanical problem. That the MOT should be extended to a two year system is of concern and could've placed me and my family at risk, not to mention anyone else.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2132 posts]
28th October 2011 - 22:28

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Isn't bad driving far more of a problem to us cyclists than when an MOT is done? Bi-annual doesn't seem such a terrible idea, and as people have already mentioned, cars are built a lot better than they were 30 or 40 years ago.

I wonder how many bikes would pass an MOT? I have seen cyclists in London ride bikes that I would consider a deathtrap.

Not trying to provoke the debate but I don't think this idea is as "insane" as has been suggested. I realise that those of us reading road.cc probably keep out bikes in much better condition than casual cyclists (if I may generalise briefly).

posted by londonplayer [671 posts]
29th October 2011 - 0:24

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Things like regular MoT checks are one of the safeguards against bad drivers, cos their often just the sort of people likely to be driving a potentially dangerous car, it makes like just the bit more difficult for them - sure they can just drive without one, but if they're stopped the car is likely to be confiscated.

The point about the MoT is that it's all about ensuring the roadworthiness of the car in other words how likely it is to be a danger to other people, well some of the most vulnerable other people on the roads are cyclists.

You can moan about it Gazzaput but everything I've read suggests you are wrong and that new cars are just as likely to fail their MoTs as they ever were plus those figures for increased casualty rates aren't spin they are based on the DfT's own assessment - if anything they slightly downplay the potential impact.

Take your point about tightening the pass/fail limits though Gkam, but as soon as your tyres were worn beyond the limit you would be committing an offence so if you were stopped you'd be nicked plus I don't know if this happens in other parts of the country, but in these parts I've noticed the police going around looking at cars parked in residential streets - mainly clamping people with out of date tax discs, but while they're at it I bet they look for any other targets they can hit.

Anyway the whole logic of the exercise is flawed how does it make things better for motorists by filling the roads with cars with potentially dangerous faults who pose an increased risk to, er motorists?

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4132 posts]
29th October 2011 - 0:46

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I've been involved with the repair of motor vehicles for over 20 years now.

Yes, modern cars may seem more reliable than 20 or 30 years ago, but they aren't infallable. To raise the testing to bi anually will result in more vehicles being in a potentially unsafe condition.

I've seen on numerous occasions, people driving vehicles from one MOT to the next, without having any checks in between. Many of these people complained about odd squeaks etc from the car, but didn't bother to get it checked out. This could be something innocuous as dust in the braking system, or it could be something more serious such as worn or siezed components.

Ok, so the test only says that your vehicle passed on this particular day, the following your wheel may fall off for example. But at least by having the test, you are reducing the possibilities of there being faults in the vehicle. To increase the length of time between tests can only create more unsafe vehicles as people will inevitably think that their vehicle won't have any problems, or need any repair work for 2 years.

posted by rokapotamus [19 posts]
29th October 2011 - 9:21

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posted by Recumbenteer [142 posts]
29th October 2011 - 10:09

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I suspect that if the Daily Mail had a headline saying "£70 motoring tax to pay for health and safety red tape" this debate might be heading in a different direction. Pro-Mote is basically a garage industry lobbying group using lots of madeup numbers. If the Germans think 3-2-2 works, and the French get by with 4-2-2, where's the data showing they have a higher proportion of accidents caused by unroadworthy vehicles? The change was abandoned last time (and will be again) because there are no votes in confronting an unholy alliance of safety organisations and the garage trade.
If you want to tackle a loopy licensing regime, let's do something about driving licences for life, and have driving tests every ten years.

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posted by Sven Ellis [31 posts]
29th October 2011 - 11:26

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As one of my jobs I work in a garage that uses an independent MOT testing station to do our MOTs so there is no financial link.

I have checked the MOT records for the last month and found the following;

47 MOTs with 10 failures.

Ages of vehicles from 1992 to 2008.

We had 8 vehicles from 2007/2008 6 of which failed which would indicate that 75% of newer vehicles fail MOTs; but these were all for light bulbs or number plates, so you can do anything with statistics.

The 1992 car, a BMW, passed without even an advisory, but then the owner spends £100's every year getting it pre-checked so it never fails.

Of the other four failures 3 were due to illegal tyres and one for suspension damage; but of those that passed more than 20 had advisories, mainly close to legal limit tyres, that will probably be ignored until next year when they become failures or the car pitches them off the road or into an accident.

We always try to persuade customers to get the safety related advisories resolved but there is no compulsion.

As someone who relies for part of his income on cars failing MOTs then moving to a two year test would be a problem, but if other countries can work with 2 year testing what makes our system/cars so different?

Perhaps MOT tests should again become the remit of an independent government agency breaking the link between tester and repairer so that garages can't scam customers and a 2 year retest, doing away with advisories, with a higher required standard for a Pass and an immediate Fail for safety related items like tyres, brakes, steering etc would be an alternative.

Did Nightrider 2013 for Parkinson's UK, doing it again this year just for the fun of it and to raise more money.

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posted by jova54 [584 posts]
29th October 2011 - 18:35

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The Germans and Frech might go for 3 2 2 and 4 2 2 but then according to the offiical accident stats their roads are less safe than ours - hence the the DfT's own estimate of 3000 more deaths and serious injuries if a change to the frequency of MoT testing was brought in.

So what those who want the chance are effectively saying is that at the moment we're outperforming the European average so instead of doing that let's settle for the average even at the cost of a more death and injury on the road.

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4132 posts]
29th October 2011 - 19:48

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So having your car tested once a year is a burden? My goodness!

The very act of learning to drive and getting a driving license is a massive burden. Why not scrap that instead?!

Sheesh...

posted by don_don [149 posts]
30th October 2011 - 17:09

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