The MOT is a regular check on the cars and vans that use Britain's roads. It helps to save lives and keep our roads safe for all road users. Changing the frequency of the test will make roads more dangerous.

Why Keep the MOT

The Government has announced a proposal to consult on extending the time allowed before the first MOT of a car or motorcycle's life from three years to four – known as the 4-1-1 system.[1]


But overwhelming evidence shows that this would endanger road safety and inevitably result in extra deaths and injuries on our roads.


Figures from the Department for Transport's own report concluded that moving the first test from three years to four would increase the number of defective cars on the road and risk increasing the number of deaths and injuries on Britain’s roads by over 2,000 a year.[2] (Which according to those DfT estimates could include up to 71 deaths)


Evidently any move to extend the time allowed before the first MOT of a car or motorcycle’s life from three years to four years would seriously endanger road safety for all road users.


It would also increase repair costs for drivers, raise insurance premiums, and inevitably increase harmful emissions.


Two previous governments have given consideration to changes in test frequency and commissioned reports to look at a change in MOT frequency (2008 and 2011) – both reports considered 4-1-1 as an option and both times the Government decided that no change in frequency should take place and this decision included a 4-1-1 option.


Under the current system, 27.48 million vehicles took the MOT test last year and 4 out of 10 of them were found to be unroadworthy when examined.[3]


In 2013/14 there were more than 770,000 vehicles discovered during MOT tests with a dangerous defect. Nearly 2,200 every day. The problems ranged from brakes, steering, tyres, suspension, seatbelts, lights and signalling equipment.[4]


MOT failure rates have increased since 2008 – this is despite the fact that vehicles are more reliable than they were in 2008.


A move to the 4-1-1 system would almost certainly mean that cars between 3 and 4 years old would be amongst the most dangerous cars on the road – as they will have spent the longest time without a safety inspection.


Currently many vehicles are found to be unroadworthy at three years old; therefore it stands to reason that extending the MOT to four years will mean there are even more vehicles on the roads in a potentially dangerous condition.


There is a belief that because modern cars are more reliable, they do not need to be tested so strictly. In practice this is incorrect. Not only is the current MOT failure rate higher than it was in 2008 (when vehicles were less reliable), components designed to wear out – like tyres and brakes – are likely to have become dangerous by the time the vehicle is four years old. Extending the first MOT to when a car is four years old will only encourage motorists to postpone necessary maintenance work for an extra year, putting the driver and other motorists at risk from hidden dangerous faults of which the driver may be unaware.


Extending the MOT for a further year will also have the effect of increasing the number of defects the vehicle carries, because defects associated with one component due to excessive wear, could then result in defects in different but associated components which would otherwise have remained serviceable. The defects are therefore cumulative.


Currently all vehicles subjected to MOT tests when they are three years old will either pass the MOT, or be repaired and put back into roadworthy condition if they fail. Leaving the MOT for a further year is likely to increase the number of road traffic incidents and road casualties – which is highly unacceptable. The MOT test as it stands, therefore, ensures that all three year old cars on the roads are roadworthy following their MOT test. The annual MOT is the most cost effective way of ensuring Britain’s current high level of road safety is maintained.[5]


Extending the time allowed before the first MOT of a car or motorcycle's life from three years to four would also prove more expensive for motorists - it would raise the likelihood that minor problems become more serious defects, triggering in turn further defects which require more significant and more costly repairs later.


British insurers believe that fewer MOT tests could lead to more accidents and motorists would therefore see an increase in motor insurance premiums.


Air quality and reducing emissions is a high Government priority. Extending the time allowed before a vehicle’s first MOT allows polluting vehicles (which would have been detected when they were three years old) to go undetected for a further year, and be likely to increase their polluting emissions as the engine condition further deteriorates. 




[1] Summer Budget, 2015


[2] DfT, ‘MOT Scheme Evidence base’, 2008


[3] DVSA, 2015


[4] DfT, ‘MOT Scheme Evidence base’, 2008


[5] DfT, ‘MOT Scheme Evidence base’, 2008

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