Move to less frequent WOF tests raises fears
VERNON SMALL AND GEORGINA STYLIANOU
A Christchurch mechanic reckons changes to make warrant of fitness checks less frequent is "risky" and is calling for more rigorous tests to compensate.
The Government yesterday announced six-monthly warrant of fitness tests were to be phased out. Only annual checks would 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 1 million of the 3 million cars in the country and will come into force in July 2014 or earlier.
St Martin's Garage owner John Arbuckle said the changes could invite trouble. "The people who don't maintain their vehicles now . . . they'll like the fact they don't have to pay for warrants so often but I think it's a risky move."
If inspections on older cars were being done once a year instead of every six months, then the warrant of fitness test should "be a lot more thorough", he said.
"A lot can happen in 12 months and some people might clock up a lot of [kilometres] in that time.
"And for the cars registered after 2000 . . . that's still 13 years old now, so I would be a bit worried about that change."
He was not concerned about loss of business because of the changes. "A lot of my clients bring me their vehicles and I'll fix them and they might not even ask for a price because it's about safety."
Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges said the new system would save motorists time and money and would focus on road safety. But the decision was made despite a strong campaign by industry groups, fronted by V8 Supercars champion Greg Murphy, that claimed it would increase the risk of accidents and cost 2000 jobs.
New cars up to 6 years old are now required to have a warrant every year, and must have six-monthly warrant checks after that.
Bridges said the new regime recognised concerns about older cars by making sure those registered before January 1, 2000, remained on six-monthly inspections.
Transport Ministry research showed the package of changes would benefit motorists and businesses by $159 million a year, and by at least $1.8 billion over 30 years.
AA spokesman Mark Stockdale welcomed the changes, saying they would bring savings of $45m to $70m a year for motorists without compromising safety.
Seventy per cent of AA members supported a reduction to once-a-year testing for vehicles up to 12 years old. "A million motorists can't be wrong," he said.
"With only 2.5 per cent of accidents involving a mechanical defect, and just 0.4 per cent where it's the sole cause, the evidence does not support testing all vehicles every six months."
Motor Industry Association chief executive Perry Kerr said the move was pragmatic.
But Dogandlemon.com editor Clive Matthew-Wilson said despite what people have been "conned into believing", the six-monthly check was a major lifesaver.
MTA communications and marketing manager Ian Stronach questioned whether most would spend the $50 a year they were saving 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.
Labour spokesman Phil Twyford said the move was bold. It had to be backed up with investments in safety and roadside enforcement "or Kiwi lives will be lost".
An initial inspection for new cars, followed by annual inspections once they are three years old. Annual inspections for vehicles three years and older and first registered on or after January 1, 2000. Six-monthly inspections for vehicles first registered before January 1, 2000. Information and education to increase awareness of regular vehicle maintenance. Extra police enforcement activities.
- The Press
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