Banning unsafe cars may not improve safety

Attempts to improve safety by banning the import of older vehicles may actually keep older vehicles on the road longer, says the car review website

Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner, says the government needs to remember what happened in 2008.

“With the best of intentions, the government banned vehicles that didn’t meet modern emissions standards. However, the end result was that the flow of cheap Japanese imports abruptly halted. This, in turn, meant that the prices of used cars jumped. This, in turn, meant that people kept driving their older, more polluting cars for far longer than they otherwise would have.”

“Obviously, the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 also had an effect, but the sharp drop in Japanese used imports began long before the GFC began to bite.”

“The government’s current plans to restrict the importation of Japanese imports that don’t meet modern safety standards could easily produce a similar result.”

Matthew-Wilson says that, rather than abruptly blocking a significant chunk of used Japanese imports, the government should move more cautiously.

“Many of these vehicles won’t be allowed to be imported anyway from March of next year, because they lack Electronic Stability Control (ESC). Why not let nature take its course?”

Matthew-Wilson adds that access to a reliable car is central to life outside city centres.

“You can comfortably live in Wellington without a car. You can’t easily live in a rural town without a car or motorbike. In many places in New Zealand there’s no public transport. Even when there is public transport, it’s often unsuitable for groups such as shift workers.”

“I applaud the government’s efforts to make us less dependent on private cars and to improve the safety of the vehicle fleet. However, these ideals have to be matched up to the reality. Stopping poor people buying cheap cars will not make the world a safer place.”