When is a vehicle ‘Roadworthy’?

New MOT checks categories diagram, revised Testing Manual May 2018
With regard to ensuring drivers properly maintain and keep their vehicles safe to use on the roads – ie ‘roadworthy’, there are two different, distinct, but connected legal requirements:
 
* Irrespective of whether or not a vehicle has a valid MOT, there is an absolute responsibility for the driver (not the owner) to ensure that the vehicle is safe and in a roadworthy condition.
 
* It is also breaking the law to drive a vehicle on the road which does not have a valid MOT certificate unless it is in a limited class of vehicles for which the vehicle is exempt from MOT Testing (vehicles over 40 years old, for example). 
 
Until just a couple of years or so ago, there was no legal distinction which defined whether or not  vehicle was ‘dangerous to drive’. That has now changed. The MOT inspection now lists, in detail, when a defect is considered to render your car, van or whatever, ‘dangerous to drive’. In fact the MOT inspection is very precise, not only as to what is checked, but also how it is to be checked by the MOT Tester and lists three types of MOT failure:
 

Lockdown

Now lets look at how ‘lockdown’ has affected drivers, both as regards the MOT, and with respect to ensuring that the car remains ‘roadworthy’. Remember too, that whilst a vehicle might not have a ‘dangerous’ defect, if it fails the MOT with a ‘Major defect’, your insurance company may still decide it is therefore ‘unroadworthy’ and may invalidate your insurance – but that’s not the case with all insurance companies, so its worth checking with yours. 
 
Firstly though, it’s worth looking at the context. In the year 2018/19 about 35 percent of lighter vehicles, cars and small vans, and almost 40 percent of slightly heavier trucks and vans failed the MOT and roughly 10 percent of all of those failures had at least one ‘dangerous’ defect.
 

Testing Stations have not been forced to close

Throughout ‘lockdown’, MOT Testing Stations have remained open; and as most of them repair vehicles as well, motorists have no ‘excuse’ not to get vehicles MOT Tested. However, if people are in ‘lockdown’, and specifically those over 70 and at greater risk from Covid 19 (during the main lockdown period), and unable to leave home, they would not be able to get their cars MOT Tested – hence the Government’s six-month extension for the validity of MOT certificates which would have expired after April 1st. The key point here is that this measure benefited motorists’ who would have had their vehicle tax expire and be unable to renew it without a valid MOT, and therefore safeguarded Government vehicle tax revenues.
 
So, say your MOT expired in early April. At that point, your vehicle could be one of the 36 percent of cars that would have failed the MOT. Theoretically, If so, it is now ‘unroadworthy’ with respect to its MOT condition, (irrespective of the fact that legally the government have extended the certificate). If, however it is in the 10 percent of vehicles which a year after the last MOT now have ‘dangerous defects’, then using it on the road is now a serious offence, and will also be highly likely to invalidate your insurance – and the fact that the government have extended your vehicle’s MOT validity is irrelevant.
 
In all their pronouncements about the MOT extension, the government have emphasised that it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that their cars are roadworthy – and if you’re out driving it, what was to prevent you going to a car repair/Testing station to get it inspected and fixed if it is defective? Nothing!

A problem in the future

The DVSA have recently issued estimates that show a serious future problem in motorists getting an MOT. That six-month extension MOTs which ran out after April 1st will now come to an end during the period between October/November an annual MOT peak – which DVSA calculated, means the number of MOTs needed by motorists during that period will suddenly double – and Testing Stations may not be able to cope with a sudden doubling of volume. 
 
For motorists, unless they get their vehicles booked in for an MOT in time, they could face a situation where there MOT certificates are expired, but because of the large number of cars now needing an MOT, they can’t get an MOT inspection in time. That would mean facing prosecution if stopped by the police, or worse if they are involved in a road traffic accident. So here’s a strong message:

Get your MOT early

You are allowed to get your vehicle tested up to a month before the expiry of your current certificate – or a month before its first birthday if its the vehicle’s first MOT.
 
Or even call your Testing Station now to book an appointment, even if it’s a couple of months hence – better safe than sorry!

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