Should drivers worry about safety following new MOT rules?

Following recent news that the MOT period for new cars plans to be extended from three years to four years, many drivers are not happy and are trying to reject plans. Less than half of drivers agreed that this would be a good idea, with many (68%) raising concerns over the safety of driving a vehicle for longer without an MOT.

According to the RAC chief engineer,  David Bizley: “Our RAC breakdown data suggests that for the majority of vehicles, it would have been reasonable to move the date of a first MOT test from three to four years.

“However, for high-mileage vehicles, four years was too long before the first MOT and therefore it made sense to ‘keep it simple’ and retain the current three-year arrangement.”

With MOT tests in place to ensure all vehicle parts are working to legal and manufacturer standards for the safety of the driver and passengers, the idea of the new rule worried drivers that it would have an adverse effect on road safety.

When first proposed, the government argued delaying a car’s first MOT would bring us in line with France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, whilst saving drivers £100 million a year —an average of £45 over each car’s lifetime. The government claimed it would be reasonable to shift the MOT because modern vehicles have become more resilient to wear and tear.

However, drivers were right to question the safety of the extended MOTs. Motoring experts shared this view with government figures revealing that nearly a fifth (17 per cent) of cars fail their first MOT test at three years old. The SMMT argued that postponing the MOT test for a year could see half a million more unroadworthy cars driving on our roads, putting drivers and other road users at risk. The government tried to make the same change back in 2008, however, the Department for Transport estimated it could lead to 71 additional road deaths per year.

With worrying figures like this, and following the rejection of the proposal by so many drivers, the government has listened to the public voice and rejected the new proposed extension, with the support of industry experts such as the RAC and the Department of Transport.

The MOT test is still yet to see new changes, however. New changes that have been accepted include new test defect categories and tougher emission tests, especially on diesel vehicles — in line with the government’s plans to improve our air quality. As of 20th May 2018, the new rules will be introduced across the UK on all vehicles — where test faults will be classified as Minor, Major and Dangerous with only Minor vehicle defects not automatically failing the MOT. Any vehicles that encounter a Major and Dangerous fault will fail their MOT test and drivers will be advised not to drive their vehicle in its current condition. The changes hope to help motorists identify areas which require more attention.

The new category classifications should reassure drivers that the new MOT tests will actually improve vehicle safety on the roads, as opposed to question it, which is what many drivers did regarding the revised length of time before an MOT. However, the RAC have raised concerns that the new classifications could actually cause confusion by eliminating a ‘black and white’ situation and leaving the severity of car defects open to interpretation by the tester and could cause inconsistencies.

According to Simon Williams, a spokesman for the RAC:“While on the surface this change, which is part of an EU Directive due to come into force in May, seems like a sensible move we fear many motorists could end up being confused by the new categories which give an indication as to the seriousness of vehicle defects identified in an MOT test.”

He continued: “We do not want to see a lowering of MOT standards and a reduction in the number of vehicles failing the test compared to current levels.

“We understand the Government has little choice in the matter, but gut instinct says if the system isn’t broken, why mess with it. But if a car is broken, fix it.”

Tougher emission testing means that diesel vehicles could be under closer scrutiny. Vehicles which are fitted with a diesel particulate filter will be issued with an automatic major fault if it emits any visible smoke, leading to an automatic fail. Further tests will also involve looking to see if the DPF has been removed or tampered with.

Neil Barlow, MOT service manager at the DVSA said: “The changes to the MOT will help ensure that we’ll all benefit from cleaner and safer vehicles on our roads.”

With the government working towards cleaner air, a reduction in harmful emissions is just as much of a priority when it comes to vehicles as safety. Whilst some industry experts are still raising concerns over how necessary the rules changes are, May 2018 is not far away — maybe it’s time to accept that the new rules are coming.

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