With the increase in fleet drivers working from home and grey fleets having been stationary during lockdown, Brake is urging drivers to perform basic safety checks ahead of getting behind the wheel, following a new report highlighting gaps in vehicle maintenance in the UK.
The report, by road safety charity Brake and breakdown provider Green Flag, based on a survey of more than 2,000 UK drivers, reveals that potentially drivers are only checking the safety of their vehicle once a year or less, including one in ten drivers admitting that they never perform vehicle safety checks.
The charity and breakdown provider are teaming up to highlight that regularly checking and maintaining a vehicle is now more vital than ever, with MOTs exempted due to coronavirus. Brake and Green Flag are asking all drivers to perform regular ‘walk-round’ checks of their vehicle, once a week and before any long journeys.
Weekly ‘walk-round’ checks
- Tyre tread wear. Change tyres well before tread gets to the legal minimum (1.6mm in the UK). Brake recommends replacing at 3mm, as tyres can be dangerous in wet conditions with less than this. People who drive with tyres below the legal limit could face three penalty points and a £2,500 fine.
- Tyre pressure. Buy a hand-held tyre pressure gauge and check the pressure weekly, when the tyres are cold. The correct pressure will be written in a vehicle’s handbook. If you do not have a pressure gauge, visit your local garage.
- General tyre condition. Check for cracks, bulges or bubbles on the sides of tyres. These are signs that the tyre is damaged and at risk of blowing out. If you see any of these, get the tyre checked by a professional, and replaced if necessary.
- Lights are working. Check lights are clean and bulbs aren’t blown (reflect against a wall, or ask someone to help).
- Oil, water and fluids. Check oil and water levels, and other fluids such as power steering, windscreen washer and brake fluid, are well above minimum levels.
- Wiper blades. Check they are in full working order and replace if worn.
- Wheel fixings. Check wheels and wheel fixings for defects, including loose nuts.
The report into vehicle maintenance also revealed that a fifth of drivers have knowingly driven a vehicle that was not roadworthy, increasing to more than a third of 18-34 year olds.
Government test data further highlights the extent of poor vehicle maintenance and the risk it is causing on the roads. There are around 37 million licensed cars and vans on British roads and nearly a third of these vehicles are failing their initial MOT, with more than a fifth having a major defect and one in ten being found to have a dangerous defect. Drivers of vehicles found to have a dangerous defect on the roads are liable for a £2,500 and three penalty points, as their vehicle is posing a direct and immediate risk to road safety (or the environment) and is illegal to use.
Commenting, Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Brake, said: “We want to remind drivers that regular safety checks of your vehicle are vital as even minor defects, like a worn wiper blade, can play a part in a catastrophic crash. Drivers have a responsibility for a vehicle’s safety and this is a responsibility which should not be taken lightly.
“With the coronavirus MOT exemption delaying tests, checking the safety of your vehicle has never been more important. We urge all drivers to perform regular ‘walk-round’ checks of their vehicle, once a week and before any long journeys – it is a couple of minutes which could be the difference between life and death. If you have any suspicion at all that something is not right with your car, do not drive it and consult a professional.”
Dean Keeling managing director of Green Flag, said: “Driving a faulty car is a huge issue. Not only is it likely to be illegal but it is dangerous for you, your passengers and other road users. Ignoring a vehicle part that needs fixing is likely to make things worse, ending up costing more money in the long run.
“Green Flag understands that drivers have differing degrees of mechanical knowledge when it comes to cars but while it is crucial that you know how to drive a car; it is also your responsibility to maintain it.
“Keeping your vehicle in good working condition as opposed to driving an unroadworthy unsafe car could be the difference between getting to your destination safely or the cause of an avoidable crash and serious injury or worse.”