Will vehicles be safe for Monday’s school run?

Chirs Price DVSA Head of MOT Policy

In a press release issued by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) which is the government agency responsible for the MOT, Head of MOT Policy Chris Price (pictured above) says to motorists who may be using their vehicles for the first time for some time for Monday’s school run:

“whatever your essential journey, make it SAFE”

This strong advice comes in the wake of a significant increase in MOT Failures between April and December 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, viz:

  • tyres which were obviously under-inflated (102% increase)
  • seriously defective or missing headlamps (5% increase)
  • slightly defective headlamp reflectors or lenses (3% increase)
  • tyres with deep cuts (8.2% increase)
Safety-critical defects

The government’s main concern is that not all vehicles whose MOTs were extended for six months during the lockdown in 2020 have since been MOT Tested. And as they may well be needed for the ‘school run’ on Monday 8th March, those vehicles may not be in the best condition possible, and may even have dangerous defects.

To assist motorists, the DVSA have suggested that the vehicle is at least ‘health checked’ or serviced, and they have offered some detailed advice as to how to check some of the key safety-related items before using a vehicle. Their advice is as follows:

Service or health check if needed 

  • For added peace of mind, get your vehicle professionally checked with a service or a health check. If you want to go back to your original pre-exemption MOT date, consider getting an early MOT. Your garage can check the things you can’t see
  • For example, brakes need to work properly and are fundamental to your safety when driving a vehicle. You can test the brake pedal each time you drive the car
  • If the brake feels different, the brakes make a continuous noise or if the vehicle pulls to one side when you brake, you must contact your local garage as soon as possible
  • If the warning lights on the dashboard come on, get the vehicle professionally checked as soon as possible

Air in tyres 

  • Tyres need to be correctly inflated, without any cuts or bulges. Correctly inflated tyres reduce the risk of accidents, will last longer and will save you money on fuel
  • Tyres can lose air and deteriorate when they are stationary for a long period
  • Your car manual will tell you the right pressure for your tyres. Most petrol stations and garages will have a pressure gauge and air pump, so check when you fill up. At the same time look out for bulges and cuts
  • Remember to check your MOT ‘advisories’. If a tyre was close to the minimum tread before the lockdown, now might be a good time replace the tyre

Fill up screenwash 

  • You need to check that fluid is topped up and the windscreen wipers work, without streaking water. When the engine is cold, lift the bonnet, check the windscreen washer bottle and top up if necessary. Using washer fluid rather than water will help to clean the windscreen and prevent the washers freezing in winter
    Click here for the MOT rules on windscreens
Tyres and Brakes top contributors to accidents
This tyre is clearly severely damaged, but wear, cuts and bulges, although not as obvious, can be dangerous when subject to the forces of cornering and braking, so it pays to keep a close eye on your car’s tyres.

Examine lights & tyre tread


  • Since you last used the vehicle, a car bulb could have blown
  • Turn on all the lights and walk around the car. Give them a tap to check they’re not loose or damaged and check the colours are correct and match. Your car manual will explain how to change a bulb, or your garage can do this. You can test brake lights by reversing up to a garage door or window and pressing the brake. Look for a reflection in the rear view mirror
    Click here for the MOT rules on Lights

Tyre tread

  • The legal minimum tyre tread depth for cars is 1.6mm and the condition of your tyres is key to your safety. This is especially important when roads are wet and icy
  • Turn the steering wheel fully to the left or right. Look for the tread wear indicators which are at the bottom of the tyre grooves. If they are flush with the level of the tread, you need to replace the tyre
  • Another good rule of thumb is the ’20p test’. Insert a 20p coin into the groove on the tyre. If the tread covers the outer band of the coin the tyre depth is legal. Check the tread depth is even across the tyre”
    Click here for the MOT rules on tyres

At MOT Testing we share the DVSA’s concerns, although the only real way of making sure your vehicle is safe is to have it serviced and/or MOT Tested. The MOT Test is, and always has been a key contributor to road safety in the UK, and is actually in some ways a better gauge of a vehicle’s roadworthiness than the annual service, as some safety-related items in an MOT inspection are not routinely checked during a service. Key safety related examples are:

  • brake performance
  • headlamp aim
  • condition of steering and suspension (click for MOT rules)
  • the condition of metal brake pipes.

Remember too, that should you have a serious accident caused by a defect on your vehicle which would have been detected during an MOT inspection, and your car did not have a valid Test certificate at the time of the accident, that would almost certainly invalidate your insurance ­– which could become a very expensive oversight!

We would urge all our readers to make sure that their vehicles always have a valid MOT certificate unless they are exempt (for example, classic cars over 40 years old).

Look after yourself and your family – drive safely, and get your car MOT Tested to make sure it’s safe for yourself and other road users.

Link to complete list of MOT Test items

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