More than 200,000 cars are on the roads without valid National Car Testing (NCT) certificates, a figure likely to rise in the new year due to a huge backlog in testing.
At the same time, tougher laws being introduced next month will mean that motorists face a €60 on-the-spot fine and penalty points for failing to have a current NCT cert.
Some of the country’s 47 NCT centres, which conduct tests for the Road Safety Authority (RSA), have an online waiting list of almost three months.
Motorists without a valid NCT cert in place face a new fixed charge offence and the automatic imposition of three penalty points from December 8. That can increase to five penalty points if convicted in court.
“It is estimated that over 200,000 vehicles are being used without a valid NCT,” said the RSA’s communications manager Brian Farrell.
“The majority of vehicle owners are law-abiding and have their cars tested on time. The introduction of the fixed charge offence should encourage all car owners to abide by the law.”
Motorists are increasingly likely to be stopped on the roads as gardaí increase pre-Christmas checkpoints. While many drivers may carry evidence of a test booking to avoid being fined, there is no guarantee that this will be accepted.
“The introduction of NCT as a fixed charge offence attracting three penalty points from early December will create even more pressure on NCTs at the start of next year,” said Mr Farrell.
“There is always very high demand for NCTs in the early part of each year because tests are due on the anniversary of first registration and the vast majority of vehicles are registered in the first half of the year.
“Car owners need to be aware that because of the high level of demand at the start of the year together with the introduction of three fixed penalty points for non-compliance in early December, it will not be possible to get tests at short notice at the start of the year.”
Annual NCTs are now mandatory for all cars more than 10 years old. Cars between four and 10 years old must get tested every two years.
Motorists with older cars also face fines for failure to display a valid NCT disc, which is a separate offence under new Government legislation.
Macroom in Co Cork has the longest waiting list for NCTs, with nothing available until the beginning of March. The shortest is Cahir, Co Tipperary, where there is a slot available on January 30.
“Not surprisingly, as a result of the RSA’s awareness campaign there is high demand for NCTs at present,” Mr Farrell added.
The RSA is anxious that motorists avail of new rules that will allow them to undergo a test 90 days before their NCT certificate expires.
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