More than a million unroadworthy vehicles are set to return to the UK’s roads as lockdown eases, according to a new estimate. Research by garage chain Kwik Fit suggests almost 1.1 million cars will soon be roaming the UK despite not meeting the criteria required to pass an MoT test.

MoTs were suspended at the end of March as part of the government’s coronavirus lockdown measures, and any car in need of a test after that date has been granted a six-month extension to its existing certificate. Despite this, vehicles must still be in roadworthy condition if they are to be driven on the public road, and the Department for Transport (DfT) has made it clear that drivers of unsafe vehicles will be prosecuted.

According to Kwik Fit, around 24 percent of the vehicles that were originally due a test in that period have been tested, but almost half (49 percent) will not be tested until the extension runs out - no matter what happens with the lockdown. And of those, eight percent said they will do so as they believe there is something wrong with their car and don’t want to risk it failing.

Sign for an MOT vehicle test centre in UK

Perhaps unsurprisingly, therefore, Kwik Fit has analysed the latest DVSA MoT data, along with its own statistics, and concludes that more than a million vehicles would fail their MoTs. According to the company, some 316,000 vehicles would fail with ‘dangerous’ defects, while the remaining 780,000 vehicles would fail with ‘major’ problems.

Mechanic using a tablet to perform MOT inspection

Kwik Fit’s study of 2,000 UK motorists found that seven in 10 (71 percent) would like the government to end the MoT extension, with a third (31 percent) saying they want the extension to cease immediately. A further 19 percent, meanwhile, want the extension to end when traffic returns to normal levels.

Fewer than one in five drivers (18 percent) said the government should keep the MoT extension in place until vehicle use gets back to previous levels. Those who have had their car tested, or will do so despite receiving an extension, are more than twice as likely to believe that the extension should be stopped immediately than those who will not get their car tested until the end of the extension period.

Zebra crossing on a quiet street with no traffic in London

“It has been very interesting to see that many drivers have still had their car MOTed in spite of receiving an extension, because they want the reassurance a test provides,” said Roger Griggs, communications director at Kwik Fit. “The extension has been very helpful to drivers during the lockdown, but as Covid-19 prevention measures begin to ease we urge the government to remove the automatic extension in order to prevent dangerous and illegal cars taking to the roads unchecked.

“Our research found that the most common reason people were giving for going to the end of the extension without a test was that they ‘knew their car was safe’.  Unfortunately, our experience shows that many people who think their car is safe are actually driving a vehicle with dangerous or major defects – the physical MOT test is a vital way to help ensure the safety of those drivers, and the other road users around them.”