Safety fears over WoF changes

By Teuila Fuatai

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Increasing the time between vehicle safety checks will make our roads more dangerous, Tauranga mechanics say.

Proposed options for reducing the frequency of warrant of fitness (Wof) safety checks have been revealed in a discussion document on New Zealand's vehicle licensing system.

The proposals would save motorists millions of dollars.

But Ron Mason, of Action Automotive, told the Bay of Plenty Times less frequent checks would not improve the state of vehicles.

''Those ones that are not safe will never be safe. And a year or longer distance between warrants is not going to improve that,'' Mr Mason said.

Under the current system, many drivers were already reckless with basic car maintenance and safety, he said.

''The main problem we find with a lot of cars is people not looking at their tyres. Add in another 12 months, and they're still not going to look at their tyres.

''More responsibility from the owners of the cars is needed,'' he said.

Mark Harman, owner of Harman Automotive in Papamoa, said older cars and the condition of our roads meant New Zealand vehicles should be inspected more regularly than in other countries.

Many New Zealand car owners also failed to maintain their vehicles adequately, he said.

''Some of the vehicles we see come through for six-monthly inspections with faults and people keep driving them. They don't go out of their way to maintain them,'' Mr Harman said.

''The safest option from my point of view is to stay with the status quo.''

The current biannual checks, at a cost of up to $100 a year, was a small price to pay, Mr Harman said.

''You can spend that on one visit to the doctor. What price do you put on safety? I'd hate to see fatalities from the flow-on effect of vehicles not being kept up to standard.''

The proposed options include four alternatives to streamline the Wof scheme and changes to the vehicle registration programme.

Currently, vehicles must be inspected every six months if older than six years. Newer vehicles are inspected annually.

At a cost of about $50 per inspection, Kiwis are forking out nearly $250 million in inspection fees each year.

Proposed changes include tougher testing standards, but less frequent inspections and the introduction of demerit points penalising those who don't comply with Wof safety standards.

A further seven changes to vehicle registration are included in the document, plus new options for the Certificate of Fitness and Transport Licensing systems.

Drivers would save millions of dollars in testing fees and administration costs each year under the proposed options,  the ministry says.

Dog and Lemon Guide motoring editor Clive Matthew-Wilson said the proposed changes would not help the average motorist.

''Most motorists are perfectly comfortable with the system as it is,'' Mr Matthew-Wilson said.

A Motor Industry Association survey last month found more than 60 per cent of New Zealand drivers feared that changes to licensing regulations would mean fewer Wof checks, which would compromise road safety.

But the AA says the changes could bring New Zealand into line with the rest of the world.

''New Zealand is the only country in the world that requires most vehicles to undergo a safety inspection every six months,'' spokesman Mark Stockdale said.

''Most countries only require an inspection once a year or every two years, and in many Australian and US states, there is no regular inspection at all.''

Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges said about $245 million was paid in Wof inspection fees by Kiwis each year.

''And the time spent getting a Wof is estimated as worth $100 million. But, it is unclear whether this results in fewer crashes caused by vehicles.''

- With Julia Proverbs and APNZ

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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