This is a blog I published on the 8th of May 2008, or roughly six and a half years ago. It notes the ridiculousness of sticking bits of paper to your car windscreen. Well, as of this month, British drivers no longer need to display a tax disc, but in Northern Ireland there’s still a requirement to show the “MOT” or roadworthyness disc. NI civil servants still stuck in the Victorian age? Hardly surprising.
It’s not unreasonable that older cars should be subject to annual roadworthiness testing. In Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland, we have a scheme that’s far superior to the one in Great Britain. There, the testing is devolved to the motor trade, where the garage which tests your car is also allowed to do any repairs. That’s a recipe for conflict of interest.
In Ireland, it’s a government agency that does the testing. Completely impartial.
For a few years, the Northern Ireland test certificate has included a perforated disc that you could tear out and stick to your window alongside the tax disc. But as of the start of this month, displaying the disc has become compulsory.
That’s about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. How long would it take me to edit and print a fake one on my computer? “Ah,” says the civil servant who thought of the idea, “But the police have a computer in their car and can look up your registration to see if you are legal.”
Exactly! Whether or not I’m displaying a disc is completely immaterial. The real record of my test is in the government agency’s computers, not in a piece of paper. For the same reason, it’s equally ridiculous that the car has to display a tax disc anyway. In fact, the police have a camera system that can read car registrations automatically, and check that your tax is current, and send you a court summons in the post, all without human intervention.
But you still have to stick a piece of paper to the windscreen, or face a £200 fine. Fine.