Failure rate of 50% a worrying statistic for drivers


ANALYSIS:THE LATEST figures from the National Car Test (NCT) are worrying reading for any road user. A frightening 50 per cent of the cars tested so far this year failed the test. Perhaps we can take some comfort in the fact that 91 per cent of these go on to pass the retest.

While we can thank the NCT for highlighting the problem and removing 2,349 cars it classified as “dangerously” unroadworthy from the public streets, we should be concerned with the number of motorists who are clearly failing to maintain their cars.

While the high initial failure rate can partly be attributed to more rigorous testing, the impact of the recession is perhaps the main cause.

New car sales collapsed in 2009 and show little sign of recovery. This has left an ageing stock on our roads. These in turn require more maintenance.

At the same time families under financial strain are loathe to spend several hundred euro on their car.

In doing so they may be putting lives at risk, but short-term thinking seems the order of the day when it comes to household budgets.

A secondary issue is the fear that many have of being duped by unscrupulous mechanics. Those with little or no mechanical knowledge fear being at the mercy of a garage that might load on extra work that may well be unnecessary to pass the NCT. And, the argument goes, if it’s the standard for vehicle safety, then it should be the benchmark for repairs.

The end result is that many motorists are using the test as a sort of preliminary independent inspection of their vehicle and the repairs it needs.

For €55 they either get a clean bill of health or a list of work that needs to be carried out. With this list in hand they can then go to the garage knowing what needs to be done.

This approach clearly has some financial merit when money is tight. While there are various garages and motor-factor outlets offering pre-NCT checks – some for free – many are only cursory inspections that don’t include elements such as emissions tests or rolling road brake performance inspections. In most cases detailed inspections will cost more than the initial NCT, so it seems to make economic sense to let the inspectors give your car the once over.

The problem with this approach, of course, is that motorists no longer feel obliged to maintain their cars until the test is due. The test, while a welcome safety check for the nation’s fleet, is not as all-encompassing as it could be. If, as the figures suggest, a large number of motorists are only repairing their cars on the back of failing the NCT, then we should be thankful that the test exists and that 1.4 million of our fleet is inspected at least once a year.

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