MOT tests every other year in Northern Ireland might be feasible for less old cars

Mews Letter editorial of Thursday August 26 2021:

Thursday, 26th August 2021, 8:43 am
Updated Thursday, 26th August 2021, 8:57 am
News Letter editorial

Mass car ownership has been a happy fact of life in Northern Ireland for more than 50 years.

Such access to personal vehicles has greatly expanded people’s choices and quality of life.

Drivers young and old enjoy the freedom of movement that comes from access to a car.

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Driving is also much safer than it was in the early 1970s.

The chances of being killed in an accident are about one eighth per mile travelled now than then.

There are many reasons for this, ranging from stricter enforcement of speed limits to better driver training and greater awareness of the risks.

But one of the most important reasons in the plunge in fatality rates is that cars are better. They are much better built than they were five decades ago, and have to adhere to far higher road safety standards.

Complying with such standards is a nuisance for car owners as the MOT tests loom annually, but the system of such assessment saves us from our worse instincts — if there was no compulsion, it would be all the easier to defer certain repairs that might not seem pressing to the layman but which mechanical experts know are important.

MOT tests have been thrown out of kilter by lockdown, and are so far behind that it could take a long time to catch up, despite the fact that cars have been allowed to go two years without a test.

This might be a key reason why the infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon is considering a general policy of biennial testing, rather than annual. The idea is not entirely a bad one.

Given the massive strides in car standards, a first test after four years could be followed by a second test after six and a third test after eight. But there does need to be a point at which cars are tested annually — perhaps cars that are eight years old or perhaps cars that are 10.

Older cars degrade in ways that call for regular scrutiny.

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