More gloom from the AA

The AA should stick to what it used to be good at.
Tick-box stuff from the AA. It's worried about the MOT Test. Says 94% of 18,700 members polled last summer thought it quite or very important to road safety. What this means is 93% ticked the box saying quite important and 1% very important. What is the AA thinking about adding exclamation marks to fretting over a 40% failure rate, for a test brought in fifty years ago? Cars are safer, they last longer, and although 62% believed extending tests to every other year would lead to more unsafe cars on the road, that means 38% didn’t.

AA publicity is Nannysome: “Reliance on the MoT test as a yearly safety check is best illustrated by the 17.6% failure rate on lighting and signalling, the vast majority of which could be fixed by the owner soon after a bulb blows. ‘Roads this winter have been littered with cars driving with a headlight, tail light or stop light out. The only time many of these drivers do anything about it is when the car goes for an MoT test or when traffic police pull them over,’ says Edmund King, the AA’s president.” Who, it must be said, will do anything to get himself a sound-bite. Being gloomy works best.

Far better to believe Marie Woolf in The Sunday Times: “Drivers will be required to take fewer MoT tests under government plans that could save motorists hundreds of pounds. Ministers are preparing to relax the frequency of vehicle checks - possibly replacing annual MoTs with tests every two years. Philip Hammond, the transport secretary, wants to delay the first MoT on a new car from three years to four. The government is proposing to consult on other options - the most liberal would allow MoTs every two years over the subsequent six years. That would mean only four tests in 10 years, halving the number.”

MoT tests at £55 invariably go up when testers suggest new tyres or shake their head over rusty sills. Hammond wants to remove the burden for drivers facing petrol price rises. Cars now have long service intervals, most have technology that warns of faults so we should make the most of improvements in cars since the grease gun was banished and structural failures caused accidents.

The Sunday Times also says: “The transport secretary is looking at the motorway speed limit: 70mph is too slow for modern cars and 80mph would be acceptable given the far better brakes and safety measures in cars today. That could be enhanced by "smart" speed limits, which would vary according to road conditions. These ideas are encouraging if they lead to action. It won't end the war on the motorist but it will make driving a bit cheaper and more pleasurable.” Hooray to that.

Glum AA will shake its head. Edmund King will be on every news channel except perhaps Al-Jazeera.

Picture from the archives: Original Mercedes-Benz 300SL photographed at Brooklands.