It’s some years since Roger died. Cancer had come upon him suddenly in his mid-50s and he was gone before we knew it.
A gentle, private person, he had never been blessed with many of this world’s goods, but never seemed trouble by the thought. Sometimes an enigmatic smile would come to his lips, as if some pleasing thought had just occurred. Other times, he would have a haunted and frightened look.
An elderly uncle explained the haunted look.
‘Roger was driving one night. There were four of them in the car. It was a dark night and there was a man driving up ahead with a trailer behind him, with no lights at all. Roger came round a corner and it was completely dark and he only saw the man up ahead when it was too late. Roger got badly hurt, the one beside him was killed when they hit the trailer.’
Of course, Roger should have been able to stop in order to avoid any hazard in the road. But he never drove a car capable of more than 40 mph, and who expects to come around a corner and collide with an unlit vehicle and trailer moving at a very slow speed?
Roger’s experience would have been readily explicable to anyone who drove on rural Irish roads in the 1980s. Of course, there were road vehicle regulations, but their enforcement was only occasional. Farmers, in particular, seemed able to drive vehicles in almost any condition, and to execute right-turns without feeling any need to be able to warn other road users..
One of the most sensible pieces of legislation introduced was the National Car Test, the checking of the safety of a vehicle. If a government’s first duty is to protect its citizens, then the NCT was a step in the right direction. Vehicles without working lights on country roads became a rare occurrence. At least rudimentary levels of maintenance were necessary to pass the NCT.
So having imported my car and having it subjected to the NCT last September, I received an email reminder today that the anniversary of the NCT was approaching.
I clicked on a link to make a booking, it offered 9th February 2023. Assuming there to have been a momentary glitch, I tried again, the same date appeared. I tried other centres, nothing sooner anywhere in Dublin. I tried places in the neighbouring counties with no more success.
Going to the NCT home page, I read:
NCT and Car Insurance Update: Insurance Ireland has stated that its members will be pragmatic and understanding in their approach to the current delays at the National Car Testing Service(NCTS). Cover will continue to be provided where customers, through no fault of their own, are unable to obtain an NCT appointment. Motor insurance and road traffic legislation require that motorists maintain their vehicles in a roadworthy condition at all times and this remains the case. Under the current circumstances, provided motorists make every effort to book appointments in the normal way, insurance companies will recognise that the current issue is not the fault of the customer.
I booked my appointment for 9th February, more than four months after the test is due, and paid the test fee. I have a receipt to show I have acted in good faith.
But the point of the NCT is not to satisfy legislation, it is to keep us safe. Vehicles that should be tested now will go the whole winter without being checked, and the chances of Gardai checking anything for road worthiness are remote.