A guide to car safety regulations and repair laws in the UK
Car manufacturers have made huge strides forward in terms of car safety, with consumers now demanding cars that can prevent serious injuries and deaths. That said, without adequate vehicle maintenance, it’s impossible to guarantee safety on the road. Whether you’re stepping into your own vehicle, a company car or a relative’s, you must meet the most up-to-date legal requirements, complying with the many laws that govern drivers.
Data from the Department for Transport in 2019 revealed that malfunctioning brake components contributed to 3,894 reported accidents that resulted in injuries or fatalities between 2013 and 2018. If a driver knows that their vehicle has maintenance issues that could potentially cause an accident, they may be held liable if their vehicle causes injuries to others on UK roads. Common maintenance issues that lead to accidents and serious injuries include:
- Cracked windshield
- Faulty brakes
- Worn out brake pads
- Bald tyres
- Lack of fluids (such as wiper fluid, oil, coolant or antifreeze)
Understanding strict liability
Whether your vehicle is brand new, 10 years old or a complete classic that’s been in the family for half a century, it’s important to understand that you are responsible for your vehicle. There are certain driving offences UK courts view with “strict liability”. If you have not spotted an issue that you should have, or have failed to make sure the car you’re driving is properly maintained and legal, you can be held legally liable, even if you were not aware of the defect.
While faulty brakes are the most common defect, having illegal, defective or under-inflated tyres is the second most common defect resulting in accidents. Highlighting the issue, a survey of over 2,000 drivers by Halfords found that almost two thirds of motorists did not know the legal minimum tread depth for tyres (1.6mm).
How simple maintenance can ensure your car is safe and compliant
According to the AA there are six key areas to remain on top of:
For most defects, checking vehicle components regularly and completing simple maintenance tasks can ensure your vehicle is safe for the road. It’s important to ensure that your vehicle is regularly serviced in accordance with the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations. Even if you know a person who “knows a bit about cars” and will offer repairs at a low price, it’s imperative to seek appropriately qualified mechanics to ensure your vehicle complies with the law.
Frost and ice can present motorists with more challenging road conditions, with accidents known to increase during wintertime. It’s therefore imperative to ensure you check your water, oil, tyres, electrics and lights routinely, ensuring your vehicle remains safe at all times, even when conditions become treacherous.
How often should you check your brakes?
Even if your vehicle is brand new with automatic monitoring devices to check brake wear, it’s important that you manually check your brakes and discs at least every six months. Many motorists first notice their brakes are wearing when they hear a grinding noise or strong vibration when braking, but at this stage you will require a new set of pads or discs, as you will no longer have full stopping power. Every motorist should check the condition of their brakes as frequently as possible to remain safe, especially considering the fact that faulty brakes are the most common defect for accidents in the UK.
Tyre tread and safety
Tyres play a critical role in road safety, and as the only part of a vehicle to touch the road, having good quality tyres can improve accelerating, braking, handling and fuel efficiency. Whilst the law requires car tyres to have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm (in a continuous band around the central three quarters of the tyre), most tyre retailers and safety experts recommend a minimum of 3mm. Tests by UK technical organisation, MIRA, showed that as soon as tyres are below 3mm, stopping distances can decrease considerably.
If your tyres are worn below the required tread depth of 1.6mm they are no longer legal and they can invalidate your insurance. In the UK, there are stern penalties for those who drive a vehicle with worn or defective tyres. Each bald or defective tyre carries a fine of up to £2,500 and three penalty points. It’s therefore essential motorists take time on a regular basis to ensure their tyres are correctly inflated with a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm.
Fixing damaged lights urgently
Bulbs can blow at any moment and that’s why it’s essential to check your headlights, indicators, reversing light(s) and indicator lights on a daily basis. While it’s understandable that lights can blow whilst you’re driving, it’s important to understand how serious the problem can be. Any failure to lights can result in your car being unsafe, while Police have the power to examine your vehicle in such circumstances. The police may give you a 'vehicle defect rectification notice' requiring you to get your vehicle fixed and provide proof that it's been fixed, for example a receipt for the work from a mechanic. That said, it’s possible for drivers to be given fixed penalties on the spot, as well as fines and points, while the car may even be seized.
Defects can contribute to the cause of an accident. They may be aggravating features of a crash, yet they can also give rise to a more serious case of careless or dangerous driving.
At Noble Solicitors our experienced and qualified motoring solicitors are on hand to defend you for road traffic law offences, ensuring you are fully prepared to answer the allegations against you. To learn more about our experience in this area, or to tell us more about your current circumstances, please call us today on 07000 81 82 83 – we’re available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
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