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."
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.