Thousands of cars would become ‘death traps on wheels’ under plans to make owners get MOTs every two years rather than one, ministers were warned yesterday.
Motoring groups said the proposals, the biggest shake-up of MOTs for decades, would lead to more deaths and injuries on the roads.
Of particular concern is that thousands more cars, vans and motorbikes could be driving around with brakes and tyres which do not meet minimum legal requirements.
Thousands of garages that rely on revenue from the annual checks could also go bust.
Drivers can be fined up to £1,000 for using a vehicle without a valid MOT (stock image)
The Government’s own internal assessment estimates that Britain’s 23,400 approved test centres could be starved of up to £123.6million a year.
Under the plans, new cars would only need their first MOT after four years rather than three.
A consultation launched yesterday said officials are also ‘considering if it is appropriate to move to testing every two years rather than every year’ after the first MOT. It covers cars, vans and motorbikes.
The Department for Transport (DfT) argues that advances in vehicle technology, such as with electric cars and lane-assisted driving, mean the annual MOT, which has been in place since 1960, is no longer needed.
It also claims motorists would collectively save around £100 million by paying for a check-up once every two years rather than one.
But motoring groups dismissed this, saying delaying checks means faults can build-up over time and potentially become more expensive.
They also pointed to figures in the Government’s own assessment acknowledging that deaths and injuries would increase under the proposals.
Edmund King, president of the AA, said: ‘If you move the MOT from every year to two years that means you would have an increase of death traps on wheels on the road because there would be no independent check on those cars.
‘And within two years, a driver doing 30,000 miles a year, it is very easy to have bald tyres and no brakes, and that’s why the MOT is good.
‘A new car could also easily have bald tyres within year three. The MOT is not “a nice to have”, it’s crucial to road safety.’
He added: ‘While the majority of cars probably will be fine, it is those outliers – the car that does high mileage and isn’t maintained – that potentially cause tragedy.’
RAC’s head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes added: ‘While we’re not opposed to delaying a new vehicle’s first MOT, we believe there should be a requirement for particularly high mileage vehicles to be tested sooner.
‘If the Government is looking to improve the MOT, now is the ideal time to take into account how much a vehicle is driven alongside the number of years it’s been on the road.
‘We’re also disappointed the Government is still entertaining the idea of increasing the time between MOTs.
‘Our research clearly shows drivers don’t agree with this and believe it’s dangerous.’
Mike Hawes, chief executive at the Society of Motor Manufactures and Traders, also raised his concerns with delaying MOTs.
‘Although today’s vehicles are safer and more reliable than ever, safety critical components such as brakes and tyres continue to wear through normal use and lead to millions of MOT failures every year, including at the current first test at year three,’ he told us.
‘Stretching MOT intervals will shrink the safety net and jeopardise the UK’s record of having some of the safest roads in the world in exchange for a small saving, which could actually cost consumers more in the long run as complex faults can develop over time.’
The National Franchised Dealers Association, which represent car showrooms across the UK, also raised objection to the DfT’s plans and said it will be responding to the DfT’s consultation to ‘ensure future MOTs are conducted in a safe and fair manner’.
Chief executive Sue Robinson said: ‘The primary aspect to consider when proposing changes to the MOT system is the safety of motorists as a result of vehicle defects.
‘NFDA is concerned that these changes to the system may not be beneficial for motorists or MOT testing centres, particularly for franchised dealers, to justify the changes and we will be conducting a thorough investigation into the implications these changes may have.’
AA president Edmund King said: ‘The MOT plays a vital role in ensuring that vehicles on our roads are safe and well maintained’ (stock image)
Stuart James, the chief exec at the IGA added: ‘The MOT plays a vital part in keeping the UK’s roads amongst the safest in the world, and the IGA will work closely with the government to safeguard this record and ensure a fair, viable and safe future for the MOT system which protects all road users.’
Hayley Pells from the Institute of the Motor Industry said the current MOT model is ‘well overdue for review’ but said it remains ‘important to ensure is that a focus on cost-saving does not put road users at heightened risk’.
KwikFit, which claims to be Britain’s largest MOT tester, described delaying a car’s first test beyond three years as ‘a risk not worth taking’.
Eric Smith, MOT scheme manager at the garage network, said: ‘The government’s own forecasts show that this will lead to an increase in road casualties and also cars running with illegal emission levels.
‘The reality is that the annual MOT fee is a very small proportion of a driver’s annual expenditure and the test supports drivers with a timely and regular check on important safety components – not least the condition of tyres.
‘Of the vehicle defects listed as contributory factors to accidents, the government data show that tyres are most common, and tyre condition can be unrelated to vehicle age.
‘Our experience shows that an annual check remains vital in not only improving the safety of our roads but extending vehicle life and reducing drivers’ overall maintenance costs.’
Drivers can be fined up to £1,000 for using a vehicle without a valid MOT and it will also invalidate their insurance.
The tests check a number of parts such as lights, seatbelts, tyres and brakes to ensure they meet legal standards.
More stringent checks were added to the MOT by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency in May 2018, which included stricter rules for diesel vehicle emissions and the introduction of three defect categories: minor; major; and dangerous.
Within the first 12 months of the tougher rules applying, a third of vehicles tested were found to have a ‘dangerous’ issue, which saw three million potentially lethal motors cleared from our roads.
MOTs for cars are capped at a price of £54.85, with repair bills on top.
The DfT said MOTs cost an average of £40 and delaying the first test for new vehicles could save motorists around £100million a year.
It said ‘major developments in vehicle technology’ have increased road safety since MOTs were introduced in 1960, such as lane-assisted driving.
Pushing back first MOTs for new cars to the fourth year would bring Britain in line with other European countries, with this ‘already standard practice’ for the initial roadworthiness tests for new vehicles after four across many European countries including Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, the DfT said.
Drivers can be fined up to £1,000 for using a vehicle without a valid MOT and it will also invalidate their insurance
It said the number of casualties in crashes caused by vehicle defects is ‘low’ and Government analysis shows delaying the first MOT ‘should not impact road safety’.
Yet the DfT’s latest road casualty figures show 26 people were killed in crashes in Britain in 2021 when vehicle defects were a contributory factor.
And recent analysis of this data revealed that defective and poorly-maintained vehicles were a contributory factor in a total of 1,759 of all road casualties recorded that year – an increase of seven per cent on 2020 figures.
It uncovered that faulty brakes were by far the most common defect type, causing a total of 750 casualties in 2021 and being one of the causes of 10 fatalities, according to DfT records.
Tyres were the second most common defect linked to accidents and were among the contributing factors in 491 injuries.
However, worn and underinflated tyres were most commonly linked to causing deaths, with 12 people needlessly losing their lives in collisions involving vehicles with worn or illegal rubber.
Faulty steering and suspension also contributed towards 255 casualties and were linked to six fatalities in total in 2021.
While the DfT wants to delay MOT schedules, its latest road casualty stats showed a rise in the number of collisions where vehicle defects – such as badly worn tyres – are a contributory factor to injuries in crashes
|Contributory factor reported in collision||2012||2013||2014||2015||2016||2017||2018||2019||2020||2021|
|Tyres illegal, defective or under inflated||1,238||968||1,125||908||876||719||711||597||507||491|
|Defective lights or indicators||256||201||236||167||187||191||166||162||181||174|
|Defective steering or suspension||396||451||481||380||357||391||325||283||254||255|
|Defective or missing mirrors||19||20||11||14||13||22||17||14||9||16|
|Overloaded or poorly loaded vehicle or trailer||310||317||395||264||236||162||146||149||117||140|
|Source: Department for Transport Reported road casualties, by severity, road user type and contributory factor, Great Britain, ten years up to 2021 – All casualties
N.B. The total defects will not match the sum of the itemised factors as some casualties can have multiple contributory factors
Today’s announcement by the DfT comes just months after suggestions that the MOT test could be extended sparked an angry reaction from motoring groups.
In April 2021, then Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps were said to be considering extending MOTs to every two years, though experts blasted the idea pointing to MOT records showing 30.3 per cent of cars and vans failing the test at the first attempt.
Almost one in ten vehicles were also found to have at least one ‘dangerous’ defect.
The RAC said in April that extending MOTs to two years would make our roads ‘far less safe’ and the Independent Garage Association (IGA) called the plan ‘dangerous, unwanted and unreasonable’.
In September the RAC added: ‘Drivers have serious concerns about the Government’s plans to change the compulsory MOT from every year to every two years to reduce the cost of living, with many believing it will lead to a rise in the number of unsafe vehicles on the road.’
Their research showed 55 per cent of 1,435 drivers surveyed said they felt changing the MOT to every two years was a bad idea.
When asked why they felt it was a bad idea, 98 per cent said it would result in more unsafe vehicles on the road and 20 per cent believed it would lead to an increase in the number of collisions on the road.
Nearly two thirds thought it would end in more vehicles breaking down.