Automotive repair laws & car safety regulations

Stephen Halloran headshot

Stephen Halloran

Managing Partner

Tyre Tread

Vehicle maintenance is important for two very obvious reasons, firstly, it helps to ensure that you and your car are safe on the road and, secondly, that you are legal and complying with the laws and regulations that govern you as a driver.

Strict liability, even if you weren’t aware of the defect

It’s very important for every driver to realise that they are responsible for their car, whether it’s new or old. There are certain driving offences, which the courts view as being ones of “strict liability”. What this means in practice is that if you have failed to ensure that the car you are driving is properly maintained and legal, you can be held legally liable even if you weren’t aware of the defect. An example of this is where the brakes of a car are found to be defective, whether you knew this before you were stopped or, perhaps worse, an accident had taken place is irrelevant. It is you as the driver that will normally be held responsible.

Simple maintenance and awareness can remove most of the issues. Ensuring that the car you are driving is regularly serviced in accordance with the manufacturers recommendations and by appropriately qualified mechanics goes a long way to ensuring that your car complies with the law.

However, on a day to day basis, it is always wise to check your car and there are things that everyone should be aware of and do. Never more important is it to do these things than in the winter months when the roads are more treacherous and unpredictable, accidents are known to increase around this time of year due to the change in road and weather conditions and drivers can do simple checks to help reduce the risk of those.

Tyres can invalidate your insurance

If you think that the only part of your car that touches the road is your tyres, it becomes pretty obvious they are new to road safety and vehicle maintenance. The legal limit for tyre tread is 1.6 mm across the middle of the tyre. Lower than this and your car is neither safe nor legal. Most reputable retailers and manufacturers would recommend changing your tyres where the tread is 3mm or less. If your tyres are not legal, it can invalidate your insurance, with the increased risk of accidents because of unsafe tyres, there are few more important checks that can be made. When checking the tread, also remember to check their pressure, different cars and tyres have different recommendations, tyres should be correctly inflated, it can massively effect their ability to help keep your car on the road and able to stop.

Check brakes every six months

Now these are things that you can’t check so easily. Depending on the age of your car, it may have a monitoring device that automatically recognises when the brake pads are wearing down. For those cars without such a system, it is very important indeed to ensure that the pads and discs are checked. It is generally recommended that this is done every six months, although the amount and type of mileage can mean that this should be done more regularly.

Broken lights and signalling attract attention

When driving in the winter and in the evenings, it is incumbent on the driver to ensure that the car’s headlights, reversing lights and indicator lights and number plates are all clearly visible, working and not obstructed.

Any failure to lights can result in your car being unsafe and coming to the attention of the police, who then have the power to further examine your vehicle. Subject to what faults may be revealed, it’s possible for a driver to be immediately given fixed penalties, points and fines, and in the worst case scenario the car may be seized and you may not be allowed to continue on your journey.

More seriously, if defects in vehicle maintenance have contributed to the cause of an accident, these can be viewed as aggravating features of the accident itself and sometime give rise to more serious cases of careless or dangerous driving.

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