SHOULD the UK soften its stance on the MoT inspection? It’s an issue that is currently under discussion in the corridors of power and which is causing sharply divided opinions.
At the moment vehicles in this country have to be tested when they reach three years old. Thereafter they have to go through an annual inspection to stay legal. In much of continental Europe, cars don’t have to be tested until they are four years old, and the follow-up checks are carried out every two years.
There is a school of thought that modern vehicles are so much more reliable and so much safer in their design that the present arrangements are far too stringent and outdated, and that it’s time for a more streamlined system.
On the other hand, Britain has the best road safety record in Europe: only a tiny percentage of accidents are caused by vehicle faults, and thousands of jobs in the motor industry could be jeopardised if the current system was relaxed.
Roads Minister Mike Penning says: “The MoT test plays an important role in making sure vehicles are roadworthy. It should strike the right balance between vehicle safety and the burden imposed on motorists. We intend to undertake a review of the testing regime.”
The MoT began life 50 years ago as a simple check for 10-year-old cars. Over the years it has got increasingly rigorous and is now among the toughest roadworthiness tests in the world.
Motor trade spokesman John Ball says bringing the test procedure in line with minimum European criteria would cost lives and jobs. A government review two years ago concluded that it could lead to an extra 400 deaths on Britain’s roads while tens of thousands of jobs are at stake.
Some think the Minister may switch to a scheme based on vehicle mileage rather than age, which would favour light users over high-mileage commercial drivers.
The RAC, though, say there is evidence that the recession is leading to many motorists having their cars serviced less frequently so are strongly in favour of retaining the current annual checks.
“The yearly MoT acts as a reminder to drivers to think about the safety and condition of their car,” says an RAC spokesman. “If drivers do not inspect their car regularly for defects, reducing the formal inspection rate is likely to have a negative impact on road safety.”
Last year the number of deaths on British roads fell to a low of 2,222, putting the UK at the top of the European road safety league. The number of accidents in which ‘vehicle condition’ was a factor was just 2 per cent. In Germany, the figure was 12 per cent.
You can call it updating, or streamlining or anything else, but on the basis that, from a road safety viewpoint alone, the current MoT system clearly ain’t broke, there doesn’t seem to me to be a good reason to fix it. Let’s hope the Minister finds something else to do with his time.