Nearly one in five cars that gets through MOT is not roadworthy
Up to three million potential ‘death trap’ vehicles are on the roads after being wrongly passed in MOT inspections.
Nearly one in five vehicles which passed last year are not fit to be on the road, Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency figures show.
Last year some 27.48million vehicles took the test with a pass rate of 60 per cent. A DVSA report said 18.1 per cent of those which passed should have failed – around 2.98million vehicles. Faults were missed in brakes, steering, tyres, suspension, seatbelts, lights and signalling equipment.
In one in eight cases the defects were so bad the cars should have been banned immediately from the road. Action was taken against some garages.
The error rate figure for 2013/14 was up by 2.3 percentage points on the previous year. Examiners for the DVSA, a government agency, spot-checked more than 1,500 vehicles which had already been tested. They also found that 11.2 per cent of vehicles that failed should have passed.
The details were obtained from the DVSA in a Freedom of Information request by motoring magazine Auto Express.
The scale of the errors is particularly concerning as driving without a valid MOT – whose initials derive from the old ‘Ministry of Transport’ – is an offence considered so serious that it carries a £1,000 fine. The certificate is also required to get insurance.
The controversy comes just days after the DVSA’s new £44million online computer system for logging MoTs failed, leaving thousands of motorists in limbo.
Critics say the latest figures smack of a deepening crisis at the heart of the DVSA, which is charged with ensuring cars on UK roads are roadworthy.
Of the 240 disciplinary issues recorded, one in 25 resulted in disciplinary action being taken and a further one in eight resulted in advisory warnings being sent out to offending garages.
Of the defects uncovered, headlight aim was the biggest problem at 8.8 per cent of the MOT verdicts challenged, followed by: drivers’ view of the road ( 6.0 per cent); lighting and signalling equipment (5.6 per cent); suspension (5.5 per cent); tyres and road wheels (4.3 per cent); steering (2.6 per cent); exhaust fuel and emissions (2.6 per cent); seat-belts (2.3 per cent); body, structure and general items (1.5 per cent); and other issues (0.5 per cent).
Auto Express editor in chief Steve Fowler said: ‘It is worrying that there are already around 3 million potential death trap vehicles driving legitimately on UK roads after wrongly been passed for their annual MOT test.
‘But there could be nearly a quarter of a million more if the government stretch the period for the first MOT test from three years to four.’
Critics say nearly quarter of a million more defective cars will be British roads if the Government presses ahead with controversial plans to extend the MOT for new cars from three to four years.
MOT testing data found an average of nearly one in ten of all new vehicles fail their first test after three years.
Auto Express says that that basis, of the 2.4 million new cars registered in 2014, an estimated 222,879 will fail their first MOT in 2017.
The MOT new car extension consultation plans were announced by Chancellor George Osborne in July’s Budget in a move to save motorists ‘billions’ through test fees.
But the cost-cutting move has already been criticised by industry bodies due to the concerns about defective vehicles being on the road and the threat it poses to the UK’s vehicle and road safety record.
A spokesman for the Government agency said: ‘The DVSA continues to take the quality of MOT testing seriously.
‘Garages who fail to meet the required standards risk having their licence to carry out MoT testing withdrawn.’
The DVSA’s MOT service manager, Neil Barlow, said: ‘Road safety is our first priority. We closely monitor all MOT garages to ensure that tests are carried out correctly.
‘This includes unannounced visits as well as ongoing monitoring of test records. We are working very closely with industry to ensure rigorous testing standards, and are looking at what more can be done to ensure the highest standards of support and training.
‘We will not hesitate to remove the licence of any garage that is failing to meet the required standards.’