Monday 15 June 2015 Life Newsletter How 200,000 of us risk our lives in potentially dangerous cars

Last year was the busiest on record for the National Car Test (NCT). A total of 2,026,630 tests were conducted. Two-thirds (66pc were full and the remainder re-tests). Of the 1,344,265 full tests conducted, 48pc passed first time. Of the 689,255 who failed, 91pc passed a re-test.

Worryingly 5,624 vehicles were classed as Fail Dangerous. In the first quarter of 2015 a further 1,431 have vehicles have been added to this list. This means those vehicles were considered to be a direct and immediate risk and should not be used on the road under any circumstances.

NCT vehicle inspectors advise customers accordingly, inform them it is an offence to drive such a vehicle and attach a ‘Fail Dangerous’ sticker to the car.

The top failure items for 2014 were front suspension, tyre condition, headlight aim, brake lines and stop lamps. The big difference between last year and the previous is that problems with headlights have jumped into the top five. This would seem to back up the general perception that there is a noticeable number of vehicles driving around with defective lighting. Our own observational studies late last year showed that 7pc or one-in-14 being driven have a broken light.

The top two reasons for failure for 2013 continued into last year: front suspension and tyre condition.

The front suspension is an integral part of the vehicle and facilitates steering and braking systems. Failure of any component could result in the vehicle becoming uncontrollable. So it really is something that drivers need to take seriously. It’s vital the suspension system is checked and assessed as part of a regular scheduled maintenance.

The safety and reliability of tyres is critical too. In addition to the obvious problems such as tread depth being below the legal limit and damage to the tyre itself, the presence of an e-mark is vital. The e-mark confirms it meets the minimum EU or International (UNECE) standard on dimensions, load and speed rating. So if you are replacing tyres, you should ensure they have the e-mark to pass the NCT.

The steering system integrates with the front suspension so you can control the direction of the vehicle. If the steering linkage failed, the vehicle would become uncontrollable. Owners should have the components of the steering system checked as part of regular scheduled maintenance and replaced if worn.

Likewise for the braking system. The brake lines are made up of both metal and flexible pipes. Over time the metal pipes may suffer from corrosion while the rubber flexible ones may perish. The effect of both means the strength of the pipe can be compromised. In these cases it is vitally important to have the affected pipe replaced.

And stop/brake lights are extremely important. They signal to following drivers that your vehicle is slowing down. All lights should be checked regularly by the driver.

Driving a vehicle that is defective in some way or one that hasn’t passed a basic roadworthiness test is a serious offence and rightly so.

The vast majority of owners get their vehicle tested on time. More than 400,000 have been tested in the first quarter of this year and just above 200,000 have been re-tested.

Unfortunately, a sizeable number do not test on time. It is estimated up to 200,000 motorists are driving around without a valid NCT. Those people are putting their lives and others at risk by driving vehicles that may be dangerously defective, for example, with poor brakes, worn tyres or broken headlights.

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of owners and drivers to ensure their vehicles are safe and legal.