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Pro-MOTe, the lobby group set up last year to campaign for the maintenance of annual MOTs, has welcomed today’s announcement that Ministers have dropped plans to reduce testing frequency.
In a...read more
Less than three years ago, in November 2008, the Department of Transport published a study into the likely impact of reducing the frequency of MOT tests.
It found that a move from the current MOT frequency regime of testing new cars after three years and annually thereafter (3-1-1) would increase the number of unroadworthy vehicles on the road and risked a significant increase in the number of additional road deaths and serious injuries every year.
According to the DfT, an additional 408 road deaths could result from moving to biennial MOT tests and an additional 2504 serious injuries. (Photo credits at bottom of page)
Its middle scenario estimated that moving to the 4-2-2 system more commonly used elsewhere in Europe could increase road deaths and serious injuries by almost 3,000 every year. (DfT, MOT Scheme Evidence-base, 2008)
This study was based on DfT road casualty statistics from 2005 which saw a significantly higher overall number of road deaths than the most recent figures. However, even based on 2010 road casualty figures, its methodology suggests that more than 250 additional deaths and more than 2,200 additional serious injuries every year could be caused by moving to a 4-2-2 system.
As a result of the 2008 study, Transport Ministers at the time ruled out reducing MOT frequency. The then road safety Minister, Jim Fitzpatrick MP 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.” (House of Commons, 8 Dec 2008, col 42WS)
This decision to maintain existing MOT frequency was strongly supported by the Conservative Party’s transport frontbench team. Shadow road safety Minister, Robert Goodwill MP, now a Government whip, said:
"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." (Daily Telegraph, 12th December, 2008)
Safer cars will stop roads becoming more dangerous for all road users.
The issue of MOT frequency was looked at again earlier this year in a report by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), commissioned by Mike Penning MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport. Using a different methodology to the 2008 DfT study, it estimated a lower overall impact on road casualties. However, it clearly states:
“The larger the time gap between MOT Testing intervals, the larger the predicted number of additional accidents and casualties which may be attributed to vehicle defect contributory factors.” (Effect of vehicle defects in road accidents, TRL, 2011)
Some have argued that the TRL study understates the likely impact on road casualties as its estimates are based only on increased MOT failure rates and do not reflect the fact that more defects are likely to accompany each failure. In an interview with MOT Testing Magazine, the study’s author, Richard Cuerdon, accepted that his report was “likely to underestimate the accident outcomes”. (MOT Testing Aug-Oct 2011, Issue no. 70)
What is beyond controversy is that more than four out of ten cars and vans fail the MOT under the existing regime with lights, suspension and brake defects the major factors. Even for new cars and vans being tested at three years, the failure rate is two in ten.
What is more, the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA), the government agency that regulates MOT testing and vehicle safety found that more than 800,000 of the cars that failed in a year are described as “dangerous to drive” - that’s 15,000 dangerous cars spotted every week or more than 2,200 every day.
Recent figures also appear to show that the number of unsafe cars on the road is increasing. The MOT failure rate has risen from 33.5% in 2005 to 41% in 2009/10, with vehicle owners cutting back on making necessary repairs a likely explanation. (VOSA)
The example of worn tyres supports this picture with research from one of the major tyre suppliers finding that the number of tyres it changes found to be illegal has risen from 14% in 2008 to more than 50% today.
As John Ball, MOT Chairman of the Retail Motor Industry Federations says:
“Braking distances, particularly in the wet, between new tyres compared to tyres with only just the legal limit of 1.6mm of tread left are huge and can be the difference between life and death. Take away the MOT for another 12 months and this issue can only get worse.”
In making the case for reviewing MOT frequency, the former transport Secretary told the Sunday Times earlier this year:
“Car technology has come a long way since the 1960s when our MOT regime was introduced. That’s why we think it’s right to look again to check whether we still have the right balance of MoT testing for modern vehicles.” (Sunday Times, 10 April 2011)
The newspaper reported that Mr Hammond wanted to allow drivers to delay the first MOT on a new car from three years to four. But this would have dangerous implications too. New vehicles are as vulnerable to dangerous tyre, brake and other defects as older vehicles, and there is evidence to suggest that as modern vehicles become more reliable so owners are less likely to undertake regular and necessary checks on safety critical parts vulnerable to wear and tear.
Even under the current MOT system, 20% of cars and vans fail their first MOT at three years, and the TRL report estimates that this would double to 40% if the first test was moved to four years.
Using the methodology of the DfT’s own 2008 study on MOT frequency, a decision to delay a vehicle’s first MOT test from three to four years risks increasing the number of additional deaths each year by 35 – that’s three more deaths every month.