Wednesday 16 January 2019

Why must I take my perfectly safe car for yet another NCT test?


Sigh. The NCT test. As if I really needed another bill coming in the door.

And it's not just the bill - it's the hassle. And it's not just the hassle, but the sense that it's completely unnecessary.

My car is just six years old, is regularly serviced and is perfectly safe. When you hear stories of mechanics taking backhanders and wide variations in standards between test centres, it's tempting to believe the whole thing is a scam.

Road safety is the idea behind the NCT, but the overwhelming cause of car accidents isn't the car, it's driver error.

Drunk drivers, sleepy drivers, chatting on the phone drivers, texting drivers and the speeding drivers.

Only a small percentage of accidents are linked to issues like defective breaks or tyres.

An assessment of the UK'S MOT system by the Transport Research Laboratory there estimated that car defects contribute to 3pc of accidents. It also made the point that the highest failure rates were for cars aged 13 years and over, and more pertinently, for those which had driven over 90,000 miles, irrespective of their age.

This has led to proposals, so far ignored, that mileage - not age - should be the benchmark for testing. I suspect this hasn't been pursued because the computer knows when you bought your car, not how much you drive it.


Now, anything that reduces car crashes is a good idea. But it's worth making the point that the cost of tackling the cause of a very small number of accidents is very high. Not too high, but high.

Which is presumably why the NCT website can't just say that road worthiness tests are necessary for safety, but feel obliged to tack on some other reasons too.

The most egregious is what I call the 'Bord na Mona clause'. Since Bord na Mona burns our precious bogs in order to generate electricity at a ridiculously high cost, the only reason to keep it open is for the jobs.

I'm not turning my nose up at jobs, but companies should have a purpose beyond their own right to exist.

So when the NCTS proudly boasts of its "Economic Benefits" and that it employs approximately 550 people throughout Ireland, it's hard not to get frustrated. I don't want to get my car tested as part of a job creation scheme.

My annoyance doubles when I realise that the motor trade industry adores the NCT. Look how busy mechanics are doing NCT checks and repairing spurious failures.


When you add in the planned obsolescence of modern manufacturing, it's tempting to believe we're just part of a grand capitalist joke to make us keep spending money.

The NCT also says that it's good for the environment to have a properly regulated car, but it's more complicated.

A "green" principal is to fix old things instead of getting new things. So maintaining an old car instead of buying a new one should be a "green" idea.

The exception to this rule is the car. New cars have new technology and emit the least gases. Dun Laoghaire-based Green Party councillor Ossian Smyth has told me that was why the Green Party agreed to the original car scrappage scheme as well as basing motor tax on emissions.

Although Smyth is a fan of the NCT on safety grounds, he also wryly observed that the best thing for the environment is to walk, cycle or use public transport.

I'm a fan of all three but like most other people I do need a car. And since I'm in the wrong tier of this two tier recovery, I won't be buying a new one anytime soon.

Which means, I'm doomed to another NCT test. Sigh.

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