84,000 cars were on roads with no NCT cert, admits Dempsey
MORE than 84,000 motorists drove on Irish roads last year with no proof that their vehicles were roadworthy.
The introduction last May of penalty points for driving without an NCT certificate prompted a deluge of applications and long waiting lists for tests. A record 864,500 cars were tested in 2009.
But 78,500 vehicles that were due to be tested in 2008 did not undergo the NCT. A further 5,500 that should have been tested in 2007 were driven without a valid certificate, Transport Minister Noel Dempsey revealed yesterday.
Cars must be tested on the fourth anniversary of their first registration, but thousands of motorists failed to heed warnings about the need for an NCT.
"So that's over 84,000 vehicles that were on our roads with no proof that they were in a roadworthy condition. They were sharing the roads with you and me. That was the size of the problem," said Mr Dempsey.
The minister also defended his controversial decision last May to bring in five penalty points for failing to have an NCT certificate -- a move that caused huge backlogs at NCT centres across the country.
He said it was "probably as popular" as his earlier and equally controversial decision to penalise unaccompanied learner drivers.
"Despite all of the inconveniences at the time of the announcement, it was Effective in bringing large numbers of vehicles which had expired roadworthiness into centres.
"I have no doubt that roads are safer as a result and that contributed to the figures we had last year in terms of reductions in fatalities," he said.
More than 70pc of the 864,500 cars tested last year passed first time.
Mr Dempsey said the figures were in "stark contrast" to the NCT's first year of operation in 2000, when some 309,000 tests were undertaken with a pass rate of less than 4pc at the first attempt.
The highest demand for tests came last month, when 55,000 tests were booked over three weeks. More than 84pc of them had a test due in 2010, showing there was now greater compliance, he said.
The minister was speaking at the unveiling of a new car-testing centre in Greenhills, west Dublin, which will have the capacity to inspect 1,000 vehicles weekly.
There are now 550 people employed in 46 centres countrywide as backlogs are shortened.
Mr Dempsey told the Irish Independent that motorists are now waiting between six and eight weeks for a test. But he wants to see that system change to an 'on-demand' facility.
This would ensure that people know in advance when their test is due and can submit an application on time. Tests could then be carried out within a four-to-six-week period.
Under new changes introduced earlier this month, tyres will fail if they do not have a visible European standard mark -- an 'E' or 'e' -- indicating the tyre complies with regulations.
Drivers are being advised by the Irish Tyre Industry Association to call into a garage to identify the 'E' mark, which may not be immediately visible.
Conor Faughnan of the AA said last night that the new requirement would not affect the vast majority of cars in Ireland as they have the E-rating.
Other changes mean tinted windows and modified exhausts will fail the NCT unless they comply with strict new regulations. Rear fog lamps, reverse lamps, electronic warning lights and rear registration-plate lamps are also now being tested.