Car test reform labelled unsafe

Last updated 05:00 28/01/2013

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New rules covering warrants of fitness could lead to more unsafe cars being on the roads, one New Plymouth inspector says.

Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges announced the changes yesterday.

Six-monthly warrant of fitness tests are to be phased out and only annual checks will be needed for cars registered after January 1, 2000.

There will also be a more lenient regime for new vehicles, which will need an initial warrant but will then not have to be retested for three years.

The change will affect about one million of the three million cars in the country and will come into force by July 2014 or earlier.

While Mr Bridges said the new system would save motorists time and money, Darren Erb, of AA Auto Service and Repair, disagreed.

Mr Erb believed the changes could lead to an increase in unsafe cars on New Zealand's roads. "It has to, it can't not," he said. "You can't make a car safer by checking it less frequently."

He also said that while the move might save motorists in the short term, it would end up costing them in the long run.

"If we are not checking them as regularly, then further damage could be sustained and it will then cost more to be fixed."

Mr Erb said if a car needed new front disc pads and wasn't checked, it could lead to damaged rotors which would then require replacing or machining.

Mr Bridges said the new inspection regime recognised concerns about older vehicles by making sure vehicles registered before January 1, 2000, remain on six-monthly inspections.

It also recognised that the quality of vehicles and their safety features and performance were improving over time, he said.

"Decisions have come after a great deal of work, including public consultation that canvassed a range of possible options," Mr Bridges said.

"While many submitters wanted reform, others expressed concern about change.

"We took these concerns into account in designing a WOF package that backs up the changed inspection frequency over time with other measures, such as information and education campaigns and more funding for police enforcement."

Work on the information and education campaigns and police enforcement activities, including funding details, would be undertaken in the coming months.

AA spokesman Mark Stockdale welcomed the changes, saying they would bring savings of $45 million to $70m a year for motorists without compromising safety.

Motor Trade Association spokesman Ian Stronach said the decision was disappointing but entirely predictable. They believed they could mitigate the risk but police resources were already stretched so they were unlikely to have the time to "jack up your car and check the brake-linings" on the side of the road.

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Mr Stronach said an education campaign would not change a lifetime of indifference by some Kiwi drivers who did not have the time, wherewithal, facilities or inclination to do checks and maintenance on their vehicles

He questioned whether most would spend the $50 a year they would save on warrant checks on voluntary safety checks.

"Most won't be interested . . . they are oblivious to the risks and campaigns won't change that," he said, pointing to the number who used cellphones while driving.

The decision would cost an estimated 2000 jobs in the industry among those checking and repairing vehicles.

- Taranaki Daily News

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