Some freedoms we don't need

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Government proposals to relax rules on testing pre-1960 vehicles could affect all of us – the wrong way….

I’ve just got my MK2 back from its MoT test. All clear, and no mysterious ‘blown sidelight bulb’ to trigger half an hour’s labour and a re-test fee. Its a relief to me to know that a qualified mechanic reckons a wheel isn’t going to fall off any time soon. Which is why I’m surprised at the supportive attitude of the FBHVC over government proposals to exempt pre-1960 vehicles from the need to hold an MoT.

The Federation seems to agree with Mike Knight, the MP who is pushing this, that all old car owners keep their vehicles in perfect nick. I imagine most aim for that happy state, but rust eats away invisibly, seals dry out, rubber hoses rot without obvious signs. Some owners will discover these flaws. Some, including myself, may not not through disinterest but through lack of ability, knowledge or facilities.

Then there’s the temptation to finally unload that ropy Austin 7 that’s been SORN’d on the drive for years. Surely a quick run round the block will be enough to check its working OK before you sell it…

The evidence is that the older the vehicle, the higher the MoT pass rate which means that some of them nevertheless do fail. Clearly the test, particularly the emissions and braking elements, is not designed for a tiller-steered Detroit Electric, but if this is a difficulty then why not a simplified test for earlier machines?

The consequences of one fatal crash involving an old car later found to be unsafe could affect all of us, leading to the sort of crippling usage restrictions that some European countries already impose.

The argument is that old cars do small mileages and are involved in only a very small minority of crashes. That may be true but it only takes one suspension or brake failure to ruin a life. I know I spent a year in Stoke Mandeville Hospital surrounded by paralysed people, all with a story of how unlikely their own accident was. Statistics may cheer politicians, but they don’t heal people.

All running road vehicles should be subject to a minimum annual test. Its a safety net we should not scrap. Saving £54.85 won’t look like a bargain as the ambulance drives away.

Gordon Cruickshank

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