Vehicle Safety


Vehicle Safety

Vehicle safety is important when purchasing a vehicle, and once purchased, maintaining the safety of the vehicle is essential. Legislation ensures that all vehicles on UK roads meet the minimum required standards. It is the responsibility of the registered owner of the vehicle to comply with the relevant legislation.

Further information is available on .Gov.UK

MOT Tests and The Law

If you drive an eligible vehicle without an MOT you are breaking the law*  Road Traffic Act 1988 section 47
*Some exclusions apply – read on for more information

What is an MOT?
Ministry of Transport tests, commonly known as MOT tests are checks done each year to ensure the safety, road worthiness and emission checks of a vehicle. The test is carried out and required by law on vehicles over three years old.

Are any vehicles exempt from an MOT test?
Not all vehicles are required to have an MOT test. Some exclusions are tractors, goods vehicles powered by electricity, and a more recent exclusion are motorcycles and cars made before 1960. A full list of vehicles exempt from an MOT test can be found on the Gov.UK website.

What are the penalties for not having an MOT?
You may be fined up to £1000 if you are caught driving a vehicle without a valid MOT. If the vehicle is has more than eight passenger seats the maximum penalty increases to £2,500. Also, failing to produce a test certificate to a police officer carries a penalty of up to £1,000.
Currently, no penalty points are issued for driving without an MOT however your insurance is likely to be void, which is a penalty point carrying offence in itself. See ‘driving without insurance‘ for further information.

Will I receive an MOT reminder?
The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) do not send out reminders so it is entirely the owners responsibility to ensure the vehicle always has a valid MOT. It is possible to register for a text reminder service with Gov.UK. This service currently costs £1.50.

When do I need to have my MOT test done?
MOT tests can be done up to 28 days prior to the expiry date of the existing certificate. In these instances the current MOT certificate may be requested by the new examiner. Having your car tested up to 28 days early does not affect the expiry date for the following year.

Can I drive my vehicle if the MOT has expired?
In simple terms no, although there are some exceptions to this. If you can prove you are driving to pre-arranged MOT test centre you may not be prosecuted if caught driving the vehicle. However you must check that your insurers will still cover you to drive the vehicle in these circumstances. Therefore it is strongly advised that you always book your next MOT test in plenty of time so your existing certificate does not run out.

Can I drive my vehicle if it fails it’s MOT?
If your vehicle fails it’s MOT test you can only drive it to a place of repair or to a scrap yard and arrangements must be pre-booked. Again, you must make your insurer aware to ensure you are still covered. In many situations where a vehicle fails the testing centre will offer to repair the vehicle and some then also offer a free re-test. It is strongly advised to book your vehicle in early (up to 28 days) to allow plenty of time for repairs.

What if my vehicle fails but my previous MOT certificate is still valid?
If you are aware that the vehicle has faults significant enough to fail an MOT test then you should not drive the vehicle, unless it is to and/or from pre-booked repairs or the MOT test centre (let your insurers know to make sure they will still cover you). This is despite a previous MOT certificate still being valid. Once the faults are repaired you may drive the vehicle until the existing certificate expires or until the MOT re-test.
To sum this up, technically you can drive a vehicle until it’s existing MOT certificate expires. HOWEVER, if during this time your vehicle fails another MOT test it would be immoral and potentially dangerous to drive it, unless in the circumstances above. If you were to have an accident your insurer may make it very difficult or even impossible for you to make a claim.

How much does an MOT test cost?
The cost of an MOT test varies depending on the type of vehicle. Although there are standard fees for all types of vehicle you will find that some garages and MOT test centres offer special rates, so it can be useful to shop around.

When does my vehicle need its first MOT?
This varies on the type of vehicle, although the majority of vehicles are three years old when they need their first MOT test.

The standard fees and the age a first MOT is needed are set out in the table below (taken fromGov.UK)
(Prices correct as of February 2013)

Vehicle Type Age first MOT
needed (years)
Motorbike 3 £29.65
Motorbike with sidecar 3 £37.80
3 wheeled vehicles (upto
450kg unladen weight)
3 £37.80
3 wheeled vehicles (over
450kg unladen weight)
3 £54.85
Cars (upto 8 passenger
3 £54.85
Motor Caravans 3 £54.85
Quads (max unladen weight
400kg. For goods vehicles
550kg and max net power of
15 kw)
3 £54.85
Dual purpose vehicles 3 £54.85
Private hire and public service
vehicles (up to 8 seats)
3 £54.85
Ambulances and taxis 1 £54.85
Private passenger vehicles and
ambulances (9 to 12 passenger
1 £57.30
Class 4a vehicles n/a £64.00*
Private passenger vehicles and
ambulances (13 to 16 passenger
1 £59.55
Private passenger vehicles and
ambulances (more than 16
passenger seats)
1 £80.65
Class 5a vehicles (13 to 16
passenger seats)
n/a £80.50*
Class 5a vehicles (more than 16
passenger seats)
n/a £124.50*
Goods vehicles (over 3,000kg
upto 3,500kg DGW)
3 £58.60

* Includes seatbelt installation check.

Where can I get my MOT test done?
There are many approved MOT test centres across the whole of the UK. In order for any garage or company to carry out an MOT test they must be a VOSA (Vehicle and Operator Standards Agency) approved testing station. Legitimate testing stations must display the blue sign with three white triangles, and show the official “MOT Test: Fees and Appeals” poster on their notice board or in a visible place on their premises. This must also include contact details for your local VOSA area office. An active list of approved VOSA MOT testing centres can be downloaded on Data.Gov – an official government website.

Can I do my own pre-MOT check?
Some garages offer this service and almost always for a fee. There are however, some elements of an MOT test that can be checked in advance by the owner of the vehicle. By doing this you could prevent your vehicle failing on some of the more common and easily fixed faults.
Things you could check yourself:

  • Lights – check that headlights, sidelights, brake lights, registration plate lights, reverse lights, fog lights, indicators and hazard lights are all working correctly.
  • Internal warning lights – must be fully functional, e.g. ABS, parking break warning light, low oil warning light etc.
  • Mirrors – ensure they are securely in place and not cracked or smashed
  • Horn – make sure the horn is working and is loud enough
  • Wipers – make sure the rubber is in tact and that they clear the windows effectively
  • Tyres and wheels – make sure the tyre tread is within the law (see tyre law) and there are no wheel nuts missing.
  • Windscreen – check your windscreen for cracks or chips. Any chips over 10mm in the driver’s line of sight need repairing before you take your car for an MOT. Any scratches may also need checking and repairing before an MOT test.
  • Fuel Cap – make sure it locks securely and the seal is not broken.
  • Seatbelts – all seatbelts must lock and unlock, and not be badly worn or frayed.

Obviously there is no guarantee that on checking these items your vehicle will pass its MOT test, however it could help prevent failure due to something relatively simple. The actual test checks many other mechanical functions, such as the exhaust, body work, emissions plus more. A full list of what is checked on all vehicle types can be found on the Transport Office website.

How do I know my MOT certificate is legitimate?
You can check the status of an MOT online and compare the details held online to those on your certificate.
You will be able to clarify:

  • that the MOT certificate is genuine
  • the date of the test
  • the odometer reading (mileage)
  • the expiry date of a test pass

To make these checks you will need either:

  • the MOT test number (you can get this from the VT20 test certificate or the VT30 refusal certificate)
  • the document reference number from the V5C registration certificate (logbook) if you don’t have the MOT test number

Tyre Tread Law

The law requires that your vehicle is fitted with the correct type and size of tyre for the vehicle type you are driving and for the purpose it is being used. This means fitting the right tyres and for vehicle safety ensuring that they are inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure.

The legal limit for minimum depth of the tread on your tyres is 1.6 millimetres, across the central ¾ of the tread around the complete circumference of the tyre.
For safety reasons it is recommended that you replace your tyres before the legal limit is reached. Many vehicle manufacturers recommend replacing at 3 millimetres. To see the impact on braking distance of different tyre tread depths At  1.6 millimetres in wet weather it takes an extra car length (8 metres) to stop at 50 mph than if your tread was 3 millimetres.

A regular check of your tyres can help you to avoid 3 penalty points and £2,500 in fines (per tyre) for having tyres worn beyond the legal minimum limit on your vehicle.

It is also a legal requirement to ensure that tyres of different construction types are not fitted to opposite sides of the same axle. The two main tyre types are radial and cross-ply, and these must not be mixed on the same axle.

Mixing brands and patterns of the same construction type is permissible depending on the vehicle type and manufacturers recommendation. Check your vehicle’s handbook for tyre fitment details and options or ask a tyre replacement service to look this up for you.

The Importance of Seat Belt Laws

In 1983 the wearing of front seat belts became compulsory for adults and in 1991 the wearing of rear seat belts became compulsory.

The Road traffic Act 1988 or the Road Traffic (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 makes it an offence to:

  • drive a motor vehicle; or
  • ride in the front or rear seat of a motor vehicle without wearing an adult seat belt

Drivers and adult front seat passengers in cars must wear a seat belt, unless they have a medical exemption certificate.
Adults travelling in the rear of a car must also use seat belts, if they are fitted.
The driver of the vehicle is responsible for ensuring that suitable safety restraints are worn by all passengers under 14 years old. Passengers 14 years and over are responsible for wearing their own seat belt, if available.

This rule does not apply to the following:

  • motorcars registered before 1 January 1965
  • people who are exempt from the seatbelt requirement

Seat belt rules.

The following table is a summary of the rules that apply to the wearing of seat belts.
All children under the age of 12 will have to use some form of child car seat, unless they are taller than 135cm (4ft 5in).

Person Front seat Rear seat Who is responsible
Driver Belt must be worn if fitted n/a Driver
Adult passenger
(over 14 years)
Belt must be worn if fitted Belt must be worn if fitted Passenger
Child (under 3 years) Child restraint must be worn Child restraint must be worn Driver
Child (3 – 11 yrs)
unless over under 135cm (4ft 5in) tall
Child restraint must be worn Child restraint must be worn Driver
Child (12 or 13 yrs)
or over 135cm (4ft 5in) tall)
Seat belt must be worn if fitted Seat belt must be worn if fitted Driver

Exceptions to these rules are:

  • short and occasional journeys made for reasons of ‘unexpected necessity’ (so not on regular school runs, but you don’t need to worry if you are picking up a friend’s child because he or she has been unexpectedly detained at work)
  • where two other children are already using restraints in the back seat, leaving no room for a third. (However, it would often be safer for the child to travel, in the front of the car, using the appropriate seat or cushion)
  • in a licensed taxi or licensed private hire vehicle
  • in older vehicles with no rear seat belts though the Department for Transport points out that this is not safe
  • emergency vehicles, including ambulances and police cars, are exempt

Baby Seats, Baby Carrier, Booster Seat and Child Car Seat Laws

In September 2006 it became compulsory for all children under 12 years and under 135cm to use child restraints.

A child restraint is a baby carrier, child seat, harness or booster seat appropriate to the child’s weight. There are four groups of restraints designed for children of different weights.

These are:

  • Group 0 and Group 0+ These are baby seats – rear-facing and for children up to 10kg and up to 13kg respectively and aged approximately from birth to 9-12  months.
  • Group I Forward or rearward facing child seats for children weighing 9kg to 18kg and aged approximately 9 months to 4 years.
  • Group II Booster (seats) designed for children from 15kg to 25kg and up to 36kg and aged approximately 4 to 6 and over. These may or may not have backs.
  • Group III Booster (cushions) for children from 22kg and up to 36kg, and aged from approximately 6. These generally do not have backs. Sometimes they start at  15kg.

In addition:

  • It is illegal to use a rear-facing baby seat in a front seat protected by an air-bag.
  • Children under 12 and less than 135cm tall may not travel in the front of a car without an appropriate seat or cushion, under any circumstances.
  • Children under three may not travel without an appropriate seat, whether they are in the front or the back, except in the rear of a taxi.

Traffic regulations allow that the following persons need not wear seat belts:

  • Hackney Carriage taxi drivers are exempt from wearing seat belts while on duty (whether they have a passenger or not). Private Hire taxi drivers are only exempt when carrying a fare paying passenger. They must wear a seat belt at all other times
  • Delivery drivers such as milk float drivers used to have an exemption from wearing a seat belt when conducting local deliveries, although since a change to the law in  March 2005, the seat belt exemption for delivery drivers now only applies when travelling 50 metres or less between deliveries or collections
  • Emergency vehicle staff in certain circumstances
  • People holding a Medical Exemption Certificate (a seat belt Medical Exemption Certificate is only issued by a doctor)

Minibuses and coaches.

All minibuses regardless of age must have forward facing seats for each child (up to 15 years) carried on an organised trip fitted with lap seat belts.
When travelling by coach all passengers over the age of 14 MUST wear seat belts if these are fitted.


A seatbelt offence currently carries a minimum penalty of £100 fixed penalty fine with no endorsable penalty points. If the case goes to court, this can increase to a maximum fine of £500.

Insuring your Vehicle

It is an offence to drive a vehicle in a public place without insurance and you could receive a fixed penalty notice if you do not have the correct insurance for the vehicle you intend to drive.

The cost of uninsured drivers
It is estimated that each year uninsured drivers cost other motorists in the region of £380 million, which works out at around £30 for every insurance premium.
Victims of road traffic accidents caused by uninsured drivers are eligible to make a claim for settlement through the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB), and a costly number of claims are made every year.
In depth research shows that uninsured drivers impose other costs on society, as they are more likely to be involved in an accident, fail to adhere to basic elements of the Highway Code and quite likely be involved in other criminal activity.

There is an agreement between the government and the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) to ensure that victims of uninsured drivers receive compensation if they have suffered personal injury or injury to their property as a result of an accident. If the driver is untraced compensation can only be claimed for damage to their property where the vehicle concerned has been identified.

The seriousness of the offence reflects the level of the fine. The maximum fine is £5000 and an automatic endorsement of the offender’s licence of between six and eight points. The courts may also order an immediate ban.
There are around 300,000 convictions for uninsured driving every year. This is down to the powers given to the police, enabling them to stop vehicles and inspect insurance certificates.
Offenders driving without insurance can also be punished via the Fixed Penalty system with a £200 fine and 6 penalty points. Although this gives the police an alternative when enforcing a penalty on the offender, it doesn’t prevent them prosecuting if they feel that would be the appropriate course of action.
The police also have the power to seize and even destroy the uninsured vehicle. The vehicle will only be released upon payment of the fixed penalty and valid insurance must be evident. Only then will the vehicle be released to the registered keeper. The police can, and will dispose of vehicles not reclaimed within a set period of time, usually 14 days.

Frequently asked questions.

What if I didn’t know my policy had expired?
It is entirely the user’s responsibility to ensure the vehicle is insured and that they are insured to drive it. There are absolutely no excuses in the eyes of the law. If there is no insurance then an offence has been committed and the driver will be convicted.
I have received a summons notice for driving uninsured but I had insurance at the time of the offence. Will I still be convicted?
When stopped for driving without insurance there are potentially two common offences at stake; driving without insurance and failing to provide an insurance certificate. You need to send a copy of your certificate to the prosecution in advance of your hearing and it is likely that the offence of driving without insurance will be abandoned. However, if you failed to disclose your certificate, the CPS would still be entitled to proceed with a Summons for ‘failing to produce’ within 7 days of the offence.

Will I face a driving ban if I am stopped for driving without insurance?
Quite possibly. If it is your first offence the court may impose between six and eight penalty points without a ban. However, if you have been involved in a more serious incident whilst uninsured, you may receive immediate disqualification from driving. An initial driving ban is usually in the region of 28 days but may be longer for repeat offences. In addition to penalty points and the possibility of disqualification, you must bear in mind you will also receive a fine of up to £5000.

Can I receive an ‘on the spot fine for driving with no insurance?
Yes, depending on the severity of the incident. Many Police Forces issue a Fixed Penalty Notice of 6 points and a £200 fine, however, if it is felt necessary you will be prosecuted leading to more severe punishment.

Have I committed an offence if I have driven another vehicle thinking my comprehensive policy covered me when it doesn’t?
Yes. It is your responsibility to ensure you have adequate cover before driving any vehicle.  In this instance, the owner of the vehicle has also committed an offence for allowing the vehicle to be used by an uninsured driver.

My friend drove my car. I thought she was insured but she wasn’t. Have I broken the law?
Yes. You have allowed your vehicle to be driven by an uninsured driver and will face a penalty of between six and eight points as well as a fine. However, if your friend showed you an insurance certificate which appeared to be valid but wasn’t, this may go in your favour and add weight to a case against having your licence endorsed.

The Police have now impounded my car after stopping me with no insurance. Can they to do this?
Yes. The police have the power to seize and even destroy the uninsured vehicle, and charge you for the cost of transporting and storing the vehicle. Having removed the vehicle, the Police are entitled to scrap it if you do not reclaim it within 14 days by producing evidence or valid insurance.