Call to scrap ‘outdated, rip-off’ MOT tests

07.56 | 27 July 2018 | | 7 comments

A UK-based think tank and lobbying group has called on the Government to scrap the MOT test – describing it as ‘outdated’ and a ‘rip off’.

In a new report, the Adam Smith Institute says the MOT test ‘fails to target the main cause of vehicle accidents’ – pointing to research which suggests mechanical failures account for just 2% of collisions in the UK.

The report adds that more than 65% of collisions are caused by driver behaviour – such as speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and not using a seatbelt – and as a result, Government policy should ‘bring itself into the 21st century and focus on driver error’.

However, RAC says scrapping the MOT would be a ‘huge backward step’ and a ‘recipe for disaster’.

The Adam Smith Institute paper suggests a number of reforms that the Government could pursue – all of which it says would save British motorists £250m a year.

The reforms include:

  • Scrapping the MOT test altogether for all vehicles, except vehicles older than three years entering the UK from abroad
  • Reducing the rate of vehicle safety inspections from annually to a less frequent interval – such as every three or five years.
  • Increasing the ‘testable age’ of new vehicles from three years to five years (or more).
  • Separating the MOT into two tests: one less frequent test for vehicle safety inspection, the other testing only carbon emissions.
  • Focusing more resources on educational and/or publicity campaigns intended to reduce travelling without a seat belt, speeding and/or substance abuse while driving.
  • Dedicate additional resources to the development and testing of driverless vehicles to remove driver-related accident factors

Alex Hoagland, author of the paper, said: “The UK has required MOT testing for decades, in order to prevent crashes and fatalities from unreliable vehicles.

“Nowadays, vehicles are safer than ever, leading some governments to re-inspect these programmes. When these safety inspections were done away with in some US states, accident rates did not change.

“There’s no evidence that vehicle safety inspections improve vehicle safety.”

Sam Dumitriu, head of research at the Adam Smith Institute, said: “MOT tests are meant to prevent crashes and save lives, but they’ve never been put to the test themselves.

“New evidence from the US found that scrapping similar mandatory vehicle safety inspections had no impact on crash rates. Evidence, not gut feeling, should guide policy.”

Nicholas Lyes, RAC head of roads policy, said:“Scrapping the MOT… would mean drivers would no longer have to do anything routinely to check their vehicles are safe which could lead to huge numbers of vehicles being driven that pose a danger to all road users.

“We can’t imagine this would have any support from the UK public.

“More than a third of all cars and vans taken in for an MOT each year initially fail, so clearly the test is picking up some problems that need addressing that might otherwise make a vehicle unsafe.

“And while road accidents caused by mechanical failures might be low, how much of this is as a result of the MOT test existing?

“We accept the MOT test isn’t perfect, but we’re far better to have it than not.”

Neil Worth, GEM road safety officer, said: “Removing the requirement for drivers to ensure their vehicles are checked annually would be a massive backward step for road safety.

“This would lead to a significant rise in vehicles on our roads with all kinds of dangerous defects that would only become apparent after a collision.”



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Order by Latest first | Oldest first | Highest rated | Lowest rated

    The Think Tank say 2% of collisions are down to mechanical failure and 65% down to driver behaviour so…what about the remaining 33%?

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (2) | Disagree (0)

    Maybe the reason why only 2% of crashes are due to mechanical failure is because we have MOT tests.

    Rod King, Lymm, Cheshire
    Agree (19) | Disagree (0)

    Or is the very low incidence of mechanical failures causing collisions good evidence that the UK MOT is doing its job? It is always difficult to evidence the effectiveness of preventative measures, especially in the multi-factor subject of collision and casualty prevention. International comparisons are difficult to use well in this as so many other issues are involved: highway infrastructure; driver training and test requirements; driver ages; enforcement regimes; legal systems to name but a few. The researchers need to provide robust evidence that the MOT is not working and this report fails that test.

    Honor Byford, North Yorkshire
    Agree (14) | Disagree (0)

    Post script: A few years ago a brake hose on my car (at the time) split, losing most if not all of the fluid on that side of the system….and the car had a current MOT.

    More recently my current car’s rear suspension strut collapsed due to corrosion on the lower spring cup… again the car had a current MOT. No collision or loss of control resulted in either case, as I wasn’t driving recklessly or carelessly. On the other hand, a pristine, fault-free, roadworthy car can still be in a collision, if the driver causes it to be.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (1) | Disagree (0)

    I’m normally sceptical of ‘think tanks’, academic studies and the like, but I would have to agree largely with some points. The biggest cause of collisions – the driver – only gets tested once in a lifetime, whereas the other component – the vehicle(s) – the condition of which plays little or no part in collisions, apparently needs to get tested every year.

    I don’t think the testing stations rip-off customers necessarily, it’s the obligation they have to test/inspect components whose connection with safety or likelihood of causing a collision is tenuous, but we as the law-abiding consumer have to go along with it and pay the replacement of parts that could not cause a collision – that’s the role of the driver.

    In the early days of the Mot when cars were less maintenance-free than now (greasing the suspension every 1000 miles anyone?) checks on brakes, steering and structure were obvious items to inspect, but the list of testable items now is rather long and perhaps unnecessary (the old favourite – sway bar bushes!), if collision prevention is the only reason for the test.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (4) | Disagree (0)

    Some people take little or no care of their vehicles and do not carry out any checks. Keep the annual MOT.
    Of the 6 reforms mentioned in the above article I disagree with the first 4 but am all in favour of the last 2 additions.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (8) | Disagree (2)

    As for the MOT test being a “Rip off”, it has the potential to be that, but over the last few years I’ve been using a discount MOT station, and not been ripped off. He does the test, prints the certificate, and we’re off again. I watch him, and he covers all the necessary checks and tests properly. My cars are old, but low mileage, and I service them myself, and he notices and remarks upon any repairs I’ve conducted. I make sure my oil change and cam belt change labels are displayed prominently, too. It is frustrating to see my car up on the ramps for some time after he’s conducted his checks, but it appears he needs to be connected to the VOSA system for a certain minimum time, which limits his testing throughput.

    At least he can check steering, braking and suspension components better than I can at home, with the convenience of a lift.

    With previous testers, I’ve found that during periods of economic downturn, they’ve found spurious faults to boost their turnover. One tester I used for years claimed my week old shock absorbers were leaking. I’d presented the car on a rainy day, and the “leaking” fluid was water… Insisting he take some between forefinger and thumb and rub them together convinced him… Even if they had been leaking, they’d have been under warranty, so he’d not have got the job.

    Testing and repair should be performed by different organizations, to avoid rip-offs, though… I’d use a Council test station (who don’t perform repairs) were there one near me.

    Bob Lawson, Kettering
    Agree (7) | Disagree (1)

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