Roadside ‘stops’ by police discover vehicle defects

It is a little known fact that certain trained policemen are employed to randomly pull cars and light vehicles over and check them for defects, and especially defects that could render the vehicles dangerous to drive. They also have the power to issue a so called ‘Prohibition Notice’ which means a motorist’s car can be there and then prohibited from further use.

“Immediate” or “delayed” prohibitions…

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The notice may not take effect until after up to ten days have elapsed, or it may be instantaneous so the vehicle is not allowed to be moved under its own power. It all depends on the severity and number of defects present. For example, a broken spring, or a ‘substantial’ fuel leak would result in an immediate prohibition so, as the motorist, you would have to arrange for your car to be towed to a garage, and find your own way home.

A “Crackdown on defective fuel systems”

In a recent press release, the Driver and Vehicle Services Agency (DVSA), noted that they will be cracking down on vehicles discovered to have defective fuel systems, such as, for example a “substantial” leak. Whilst they are particularly concerned about Heavy Goods Vehicles and Buses, their new policy will also apply to cars and light commercial vehicles driven by the majority of ordinary motorists.

Yet whilst the press release is focused on fuel systems, for the first time the criteria for such prohibitions, immediate or delayed – known as the Categorisation of Defects – has been published in the same release. For the average motorist it makes interesting reading, especially when compared to what happens in an MOT Test.

Contrast with the MOT

Although by and large, the majority of defects which would attract a ‘Prohibition’, either immediate or delayed, are the same as those which would fail the MOT, there are a few which would be acceptable for your conscientious MOT Tester, but would be snagged by that trained policeman and a prohibition issued – although that would be a rare occurrence. But as a motorist there’s no escaping your personal responsibility for the roadworthiness of the vehicle you drive – even if it doesn’t belong to you!

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There’s a big difference, however, between what happens at a roadside check and when such defects are discovered during an MOT. At MOT time, the Tester will notify you of the defects, and will also flag up those he or she considers will render the vehicle ‘dangerous to drive’ – but has no power to prohibit the vehicle from use on the road – which is understandable as such powers should only be exercised by Government Officials. Yet the defect will be entered on the Government MOT computer, so the authorities are fully aware of the situation. You would have thought, surely, that at the very least some official Government warning would be issued – but it isn’t.

A Matter of public safety – and of concern

So, despite DVSA trumpeting their crackdown on leaking fuel systems, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds of thousands of failure defects found by MOT Testers every year, many considered ‘dangerous’ but for which there is no mechanism stop the driver driving off onto the public roads, which if discovered by an appropriately trained policeman would result in the vehicle being immediately prohibited from use. This must be a matter of some public concern regarding continued road safety.

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