MOT extension could mean 1 million unsafe cars returning to the roads

More than one million unroadworthy cars could return to the roads in coming weeks because of the Government’s decision to offer an MOT exemption to drivers.

As lockdown eases and people begin to use their cars more to get to work or for leisure, maintenance specialist Kwik Fit is warning that many cars could be unsafe, having skipped their MOT.

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In March, the Department for Transport said that all cars with an MOT after March 30 would be granted an automatic six-month extension to their test. The policy is due to remain in place until March 2021.

However, Kwik Fit says that analysis of fail rates in its own records and DVSA data indicates an estimated 1.096m of the cars granted an extension would have failed the MOT with dangerous or major faults had they undergone an MOT.

Not safe to drive

Based on previous years’ results, an estimated 316,000 of those would have failed for dangerous faults, which means the car is not safe to drive on the road.

Since the extension was announced three-quarters of cars due an MOT have not had the test carried out.

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The conditions of the extension say that drivers must still keep their car in a roadworthy condition but 49 per cent of drivers polled by Kwik Fit admitted they would go to the end of the extension period without having their car checked by a professional.

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How to check your car’s MOT status and what to do when it runs out

More worryingly, eight per cent of those - equivalent to 1.1m drivers - said they would knowingly drive a car with a fault rather than risk it failing the MOT.

You can carry out some simple roadworthiness checks yourself before taking to the road but if you have any concerns about any aspect of your car you should have it checked by a professional. Garages have been allowed to remain open during lockdown and many car dealers are now reopening their workshops ahead of full showroom reopening in England on June 1.

There have been calls to end the MOT extension sooner than next March amid fears of its impact on vehicle safety and 71 per cent of drivers questioned by Kwik Fit backed that sentiment.

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Unware of the dangers

Roger Griggs, communications director at Kwik Fit, said: “It has been very interesting to see that many drivers have still had their car MOTd in spite of receiving an extension, because they want the reassurance a test provides. The extension has been very helpful to drivers during the lockdown, but as Covid-19 prevention measures begin to ease we urge the government to remove the automatic extension in order to prevent dangerous and illegal cars taking to the roads unchecked.

“Our research found that the most common reason people were giving for going to the end of the extension without a test was that they ‘knew their car was safe’. Unfortunately, our experience shows that many people who think their car is safe are actually driving a vehicle with dangerous or major defects – the physical MOT test is a vital way to help ensure the safety of those drivers, and the other road users around them.”