AA on WOF checks

Mike Stockdale from the writes in the Dom Post:

As part of the reform of the vehicle licensing and Warrant of Fitness systems, the Government is looking at changing the frequency of the safety inspection. Changing the system is a big decision that will affect us all, so it’s important it’s made on the basis of unbiased facts and evidence.

Let’s put things in perspective. New Zealand has the most frequent vehicle safety inspection in the world. No other country requires cars aged 6 years or older (most of our fleet) to be tested twice a year.

A key point.

Some countries have an annual inspection, and many only every two years. Others, like much of Australia and the United States, have no regular inspection at all.

Most vehicles in New Zealand are tested every 6000km. In Britain they’re tested every 19,000km, and in Germany vehicles travel about 32,000km between inspections.

Personally if inspections are to be regular, I think distance is more sensible than time.

Yet despite these differences in inspection frequency the number of crashes caused by vehicle faults in New Zealand is about the same as other countries at about 2.5 per cent – or less than half a per cent where it is the sole cause.

So we are paying extra for no benefit.

The Automobile Association believes some of the focus on vehicle safety should shift away from the majority of compliant motorists to the minority who choose to ignore our laws and put other lives at risk, and focusing more on factors that most contribute to crashes – tyres, brakes and lighting. When it comes to vehicle faults contributing to crashes, the main cause is worn tyres and our current six-monthly test isn’t preventing that.

We need to be smarter about how we ensure vehicle safety is maintained and enforced, rather than only relying on a WOF check once or twice a year.

We need to encourage more motorists to get in the habit of regularly checking their tyres and vehicle condition themselves. If drivers in other countries can, so can we.

Absolutely. The WOF checks can give a false confidence.

The international evidence suggests road safety will actually improve if we follow their example and reduce inspection frequency while beefing up driver education and roadside enforcement of unsafe vehicles.

In the last few decades the quality of the New Zealand fleet has vastly improved from the days when Kiwis routinely drove elderly and worn-out vehicles on unsafe roads, when our road toll was three times what it is today, and when a twice-yearly test made sense. Since then vehicle technology and safety have progressed, but the frequency of the WOF test hasn’t changed to suit. Maybe it’s time it did.

I’ve seen no evidence in favour of the status quo – just a scare campaign.

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