Having spent two years undergoing the harshest restrictions in peacetime due to the covid pandemic, the UK now faces another severe test; the sharpest rise in prices for over thirty years. This is hitting families in all the usual ways, such as the cost of even the most basic foods, but the price of fuel in particular is adding another dimension to this misery. Events in Europe have combined with an already inflationary situation to inflate petrol and diesel prices to unseen levels. One consequence of all of these pressures could be seen on British roads; a lowering of the road safety standards that of which this country is rightly proud.
If inflation has hit everyone across the UK to some extent, it is particularly painful for motorists. While the overall rolling yearly figure for February 2022 was 6.2%, while vehicle owners saw their costs rise by 12.7%; more than double the national average. With many thousands of people having to make difficult choices over how they can economize, it is understandable that motoring might quickly be seen as a luxury, unless absolutely necessary for work. Certainly, the eye watering cost of visiting the petrol station is making people think twice about jumping in the car.
It is not just a question of fuel prices, however. Although it may seem trivial, the £54.85 cost of the annual MOT has suddenly become an issue. So much so, in fact, that the government itself has plans to cut its frequency from one to two years. In fact, the cost of the test has already proven too much for many motorists, who are delaying booking their vehicles in for as long as possible. Research shows that drivers would rather risking taking the hit of paying for repairs when the time comes than book an appointment any earlier than they need to.
The facts are stark. Research carried out by a leading motoring supplier showed that one in ten owners admitted they had missed their MOT check, citing cost as the reason. This is quite a revelation, considering these respondents knew they were breaking the law. For users of the UK’s roads – and possibly a wide range of others – this means that a tenth of the country’s fleet of 32.5 million cars, plus its million and a half vans, may be unroadworthy. Although the MOT test picks up a lot of minor faults, it also discovers some very dangerous ones drivers may not be aware of. From a public policy point of view, this should surely be cause for concern.
Ignorance is not being blamed for this level of test avoidance. Interviewed motorists could plausibly make the claim that they had missed their MOT because they had forgotten the expiry date. In fact, the opposite is true; a massive 95% of respondents knew exactly when their last MOT ran out; they just chose to ignore it. The fact is that those motorists dreaded making an MOT booking because of the cost. Perhaps they were already aware of slight problems, which might add to the already daunting £55 test price; whatever the case, most drivers have their own horror stories about how much a visit to a garage has cost them.
Perhaps not surprisingly, many people are prioritising groceries and paying their bills before worrying about the upkeep of their vehicle/s. Even when drivers decide to pay for vital parts or repairs, 29% of them can only manage to do so by credit card. Sadly, avoiding the annual MOT is often a false economy, as owners experience problems caused by worn and broken equipment. The most common of these are worn window wiper blades and brake pads. These are exactly the items which cause the majority of MOT failures, as they are among the most heavily used parts of any vehicle.
If the £54.85 cost of the average MOT test is a worry for motorists, then, that of repairs should be a much bigger one. Over the 12 months to April 2022, the average price paid for vehicle repairs was a rather bigger £274.40; in fact, some owners have had to find more than £1,000 to keep their cars roadworthy. In the meantime, of course, the rest of society has faced a less roadworthy fleet of cars and vans, putting people in unnecessary danger. For this reason, what could arguably be called an MOT crisis needs to be dealt with as soon as possible.