Drivers back three-year MOTs

British motorists have put their support firmly behind keeping the first MOT test for cars at three years, according to the results of new research published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

In a YouGov survey more than three quarters (76%) of car owners said the test should continue to take place when the vehicle is three years old.

Currently, all cars in the UK must undergo an MOT test when they reach three years old, and then annually thereafter, but government is proposing to delay the date of the first test for 12 months to when the car is four years old.

However, 83% of car owners showed resistance to the idea, saying that £45 – the typical MOT test fee – is worth the peace of mind that their car is safe, roadworthy and legal.

More than two thirds (68%) also expressed concern that delaying the car’s first MOT could put themselves and other road users in danger.

In its consultation, government suggests that new technology in cars such as tyre pressure monitoring systems, lane departure warning or wet weather tyre performance, is making cars safer. However, while such systems may help prevent or mitigate accidents, they do not change the fundamental underlying operation of wear and tear products such as tyres and brakes, which continue to require regular checks and maintenance.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said, ‘The MOT is an essential check on the safety and roadworthiness of vehicles. Extending the first test for cars from three to four years is not what consumers or industry want given the serious risk posed to road safety and vehicles’ environmental performance. The latest vehicles are equipped with advanced safety systems but it is still critical that wear and tear items such as tyres and brakes are checked regularly and replaced. We urge government to scrap its plans to change a test system that has played a vital role in making the UK’s roads among the safest in the world.’

The most common reasons for three-year-old cars failing the test include essential lights and indicators, tyres, brakes and suspension, while a recent tyre industry investigation found that more than a quarter (27.3%) of car tyres checked were below the legal minimum tread depth of 1.6mm. In addition, 70.4% of the tyres examined were worn below the recommended 2mm minimum and would be unlikely to last another year before reaching the legal minimum through typical use.

The automotive industry believes safety should come ahead of deregulation, cost saving or convenience, and in fact, it wants the test to go further. It is calling for additional checks such as allowing diesel particulate filters to be properly tested; introducing vehicle safety recall checks to remind motorists of outstanding recall work and ensure it is carried out; tightening the check on mileage to aid the fight against clocking; and ensuring the test and testing stations are sufficiently equipped for checking emerging technologies such as automated safety systems.