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Five Million Brits Driving Illegal Cars

Press release: 19/02/2010

Over five million British drivers are currently breaking the law by driving an unsafe vehicle, according to new research from breakdown service Britannia Rescue [1] . The number of hazardous cars on UK roads is thought to be boosted by people keeping their older cars for longer to benefit from the Government's scrappage scheme.

The most common repair faults identified among these cars include driving with worn tyres (12%), having defective brakes (9%) and faulty exhaust pipes (6%). In addition, one in 20 have broken or missing wing mirrors and a similar number (5%) have broken head or tail lights.

Out of the five million unroadworthy cars being driven on UK roads, 180,000 of them are still being used because their owners are waiting for them to become eligible for the Government's scrappage scheme. Until the end of March 2010 motorists will be offered £2,000 towards buying a new car or van if they trade in a vehicle that's at least 10 years old, which they have owned for 12 months or more.

There are strict laws governing the state of repair of vehicles and driving a damaged car can result in three points on your licence plus a fine. More importantly, vehicle defects were responsible for around 2,500 crashes in 2008 and 1 in 30 fatal motoring accidents, according to the Department for Transport.

Worryingly, more than one in five of these drivers (22%) has known about the dangerous faults on their car for more than six months. One in three motorists (31 per cent) claim they can't afford to fix the problem while more than one in ten (11%) say they just haven't had the time to get the repairs done.

The new research also shows that one in twelve motorists (8%) have broken down due to a fault they were aware of but hadn't got around to repairing. Britannia Rescue is today urging drivers to maintain their vehicles properly - to avoid putting themselves at risk and potentially receiving a hefty fine.

Simon Stevens, general manager of Britannia Rescue, said: "It's concerning that so many motorists currently drive dangerous vehicles in need of repair. Some repairs may appear to be minor but they could still turn a car into a death-trap, that endangers the driver, passengers and other motorists. It can be tempting to put off repairs but doing this could lead to you being fined and, far worse, put you and your family in danger."

Britannia Rescue

Britannia Rescue is the UK's fourth largest road rescue organisation and is part of the LV= group of companies. Britannia Rescue's network has over 3,000 breakdown professionals nationwide and its average response time is under 40 minutes. The company has been awarded a Which? Best Buy and offers breakdown assistance throughout the UK and Europe. The company was named the top provider of road rescue services in the Auto Express Driver Power Survey for 2009.


The LV= group employs more than 3,800 people, serves more than 3.8 million customers and members, and manages around £7.7bn on their behalf. We are also the UK's largest friendly society (Association of Friendly Societies Yearbook 2006/2007, total net assets) and a leading mutual financial services provider.

About the research

All research unless otherwise stated was conducted by Opinium Research. The research was undertaken through an online poll of 3,225 British Drivers from 5-10 November 2009. The results have been weighted to be nationally representative.

[1] There are 33.8 million drivers in the UK (2001 Census data), of which 16% or 5.4 million admit to currently driving a vehicle with an illegal fault. Illegal faults include: Bald / worn tyre(s), faulty brakes, broken windscreen wipers, faulty exhausts, broken/ missing wing mirror/ door mirror, defective headlights/ taillights, engine misfiring, broken window, faulty steering, fuel problems/ leaks, broken suspension springs/ air reservoirs, faulty gearbox, broken speedometer, broken/ missing number plate, faulty wheel bearings, damaged plugs/ glow-plugs, defective seatbelt anchorages, damaged clutch cables/ pipes.