MOT enforcement farce! Over nine million drivers admit driving a vehicle without an MOT in the past year – making 100 million illegal journeys - but some police forces issued as few as twenty fines for MOT avoidance.

MOT enforcement farce! Over nine million drivers admit driving a vehicle without an MOT in the past year – making 100 million illegal journeys - but some police forces issued as few as twenty fines for MOT avoidance.

29 March 2023

  • A quarter of motorists admit to illegally driving a vehicle without a valid MOT in the past year - this equates to over 9 million drivers making 100 million journeys
  • Despite this, under 17,000 fines for driving without an MOT were confirmed to be issued in the past year
  • Some forces issued as few as 20 fines – with the data suggesting police catch just 0.01% of those who break this law
  • Over half of motorists believe the Government is prioritising enforcing road tax over catching those who avoid MOTs - with a third saying they are prioritising collecting tax over safety
  • Halfords CEO believes the current enforcement levels are ‘worrying’


Lax law enforcement of MOT compliance is putting motorists and the public's safety at risk, according to new research and an accompanying freedom of information (FOI) request. 

MOTs are vital – and legally required - annual safety checks on vehicles over three years old to ensure they are safe and roadworthy. But shocking new figures show that nearly a quarter (24%) of all drivers in the UK admit that they have driven a vehicle without a valid MOT in the past year – equating to 9.3 million motorists. Yet police issued fewer than 17,000 fines over the period. 

Whilst for some it was a one-off journey, for many it was habitual. Those who admit they drove a vehicle without an MOT in the past year say they did so an average of 10.6 times – equating to a total of 99.2 million illegal journeys.  

With such a huge proportion of drivers admitting to driving without an MOT – and with the police now having ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) cameras that can automatically identify vehicles without an MOT, tax or insurance – it may be expected that forces across the UK are catching significant numbers of motorists breaking the law. 

However, a new freedom of information request conducted by Halfords – which also carried out the research – found that most forces are issuing just a few hundred fines per year. In fact, just two police forces (West Yorkshire and Suffolk) issued more than 1,000 fines in the past 12 months. For most it was far fewer. For example, Dyfed-Powys Police and Nottingham Police forces issued just 50 fines each, whilst Northumbria Police issued just 20. 

Some forces seem to be de-prioritising MOT avoidance so much that they do not appear to record figures. For example, The MET and Merseyside police – responsible for some of the largest cities in the UK – were unable to provide them. The MET stated that they do not hold this information. 

Thirty-one of the 45 police forces across the UK responded to the freedom of information request. Between them they issued just 16,931 fines for MOT avoidance. This works out at an average of around 500 fines per police force. This suggests that police caught around just 0.01% of people making a journey in their car without an MOT – with 99.99% getting away with breaking the law.  Eight of the 31 forces issued fewer than 150 fines and three issued fifty or fewer. 

The data also suggests forces are giving out fewer fines than used to be the case. For example, a previous FOI request found that more than 68,000 fines were issued by police forces across the UK  between May 2018 and March 2020. Far more than the 16,931 that forces were able to confirm were issued in the past 12 months. 

The research also shows many motorists are aware of the authorities’ lax approach to enforcement. Amongst those who say they would skip their MOT over insurance or tax, the main reason they say this is because they feel they are ‘less likely to be caught’ skipping their MOT (50%). 

The authorities also appear to be taking road tax collection – which, unlike MOTs, directly boosts government revenue – far more seriously. The DVSA states that over 98% of vehicles in the UK are correctly taxed, with its own figures showing that around 100,000 ‘enforcement actions’ (fines, penalties or clamping) were taken in 2021 in four cities alone* (Birmingham, Reading, Leeds and Swansea). 

The public agrees with this - 58% believe that the Government prioritises catching those who do not pay road tax over those who do not get an MOT. And a third (33%) go as far as to say they prioritise tax collection over motorists’ safety. 

Halfords CEO Graham Stapleton said:The figures are worrying and a huge safety issue for all road users as MOTs are an important check into the road worthiness of vehicles. 

“ANPR cameras are meant to automatically catch those avoiding their MOT. But with some forces catching as few as 20 people a year, it raises questions on how effectively this technology is deployed or if it is being used to target MOT avoidance at all. 

“It also raises the question of why the Government appears to be taking road tax collection more seriously than MOT avoidance. MOTs directly relate to vehicle safety. Road tax does not, but does boost Government coffers in the form of tax revenue. It could therefore be suggested that they are prioritising tax collection over safety - much of the public clearly believe this to be the case.” 

Antony Kildare, CEO of IAM RoadSmart, the UK’s leading road safety charity said: “IAM RoadSmart are surprised that not all police forces are taking the issue of driving without MOTs more seriously. Joined up enforcement using all available databases was supposed to be common practice by now and they should be listening to UK motorists who are calling for them to catch more illegal drivers on our roads. It’s estimated someone is injured every 20 minutes on UK roads by an uninsured driver and that more than a quarter of motorists don’t even know when their vehicle’s next MOT is due, while there are around 630,000 unlicensed vehicles in the UK. Getting lawbreakers off our roads would significantly reduce the number of casualties caused by the minority of motorists who have no regard for their motoring responsibilities.”




For further information please contact or 0207 932 3693


Notes to Editors

Working out of figures: 

31 of the 45 police forces in the UK responded with figures 

Number of drivers/journeys

  • According to ONS data there are 52,673,433 adults in the UK 
  • According to Government figures, 74% of the UK adult population has a driving licence = 38,978,340
  • 24% admit they drove without an MOT in the past 12 months = 9.354,802
  • Amongst the 24% who admitted to driving their vehicle without an MOT in the past 12 months, they on average did 10.6 journeys without an MOT = 99,160,898 journeys 

Proportion of illegal journeys where a fine was issued? 

  • 99,160,898 illegal journeys took place - each a separate offence
  • Police issued 16,931
  • 16,931 divided by 99,160,898 = 0.0171%


Research conducted by Mortar Research – February 2023 amongst 2,006 UK motorists who are responsible for renewing the MOT of their vehicle. 


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