Vehicle warrant campaign 'about profits, not safety'

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 05:00 12/10/2012

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A campaign against warrant of fitness (WOF) reform fronted by motor racing star Greg Murphy is under attack from the AA, claiming it is motivated more by profit than safety.

Last month the government launched proposals which could see the frequency of WOF checks drop from six-monthly to annually for cars up to 12 years old.

The Motor Trade Association (MTA) responded with a highly visible campaign against the plan, fronted by Murphy.

''Having fewer warrant of fitness checks on older cars is no way to keep our roads safe,'' the  four-time Bathurst 1000 winner says, urging people to lobby the government against the plan.

''Your life may depend on it.''

AA spokesman Mark Stockdale said could be seen as ''scare mongering'' and was influenced by the MTA's commercial interests.

MTA's members include hundreds of garages which offer WOF checks, while the organisation also owns Vehicle Testing New Zealand, the country's largest WOF provider.

''Clearly they have a vested interest in the status quo, so they're more concerned about their bottom line than they are about road safety,'' Stockdale said.

According to the AA more than half of all accidents blamed on car defects are caused by worn tyres, and in 40 per cent of fatal accidents involving car faults, the vehicle had no WOF.

''We're in a situation where we're testing vehicles twice a year and yet they're falling off the road because of unsafe tyres,'' Stockdale said.

''That tells you that the Warrant of Fitness system is no silver bullet.''

The AA is ''likely'' to support the government's plans, Stockdale said, however it would lobby for education of motorists to take more responsibility for car safety.

''There's no evidence whatsoever from the [government's proposals] that frequency of inspection has any bearing on vehicle safety.''

MTA spokesman Ian Stronach said it was undeniable that the government's proposals would impact its revenue, but insisted its interest was safety.

Every week its members saw dangerous vehicles, with one inspecting a car this week, where the driver had used a plank of wood to prop up a broken suspension.

''You have people theorising about this [campaign] and they say 'you've got a vested interest', but they don't see the environment our members are dealing with,'' Stronach said.

The MTA doubted the government's claims that it would invest more in roadside enforcement, with the Police, whose staff were not properly trained for the task, yet to cost the impact of the plan.

Additional education for motorists would only do so much.

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''We've been educating people about drink-driving for forty years and yet every weekend there's people, on the road, smashed. Education only gets to so many people,'' Stronach said.

''I'm confident about the state of my car, but I don't know about the car coming the other way.''

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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