New research published today by the road safety charity, Brake, has revealed that almost half of the 1,000 motorists polled admitted having driven with at least one “risky” vehicle defect such as broken lights or defective tyres in the past year.
The study also showed a worrying lack of confidence among drivers about how to make basic safety checks.
More than a quarter of those questioned claimed they are unsure about how to check their tyres are in a safe and legal condition or that the brakes are working properly, according to the poll by Brake and the insurance firm, Direct Line.
Official figures show vehicle defects contributed to 2,000 accidents on the roads in 2013, with 42 of them fatal.
The deputy chief executive of Brake, Julie Townsend, said: “Taking a vehicle on the road without being sure it is roadworthy is asking for trouble, exposing yourself and others to unnecessary danger and potentially costing you more in the long-run.
“It is shocking to see so many drivers both ignorant and wilfully negligent when it comes to basic and essential vehicle maintenance checks. It’s especially worrying at this time of year, when drivers need to make sure they and their vehicle are prepared in case bad weather hits.”
A quarter of those polled confessed to driving with unclear or dirty windows or mirrors in the past 12 months, while almost one in five admitted getting behind the wheel despite having broken windscreen wipers or not having the washers topped up.
One in eight drove despite knowing they had broken or faulty lights, the same number ignored defective tyres and four per cent went out on the roads with broken indicators. More than a third of respondents said they do not ensure their tyres have the 3mm tread recommended in wet weather and one in seven admitted not checking water levels, lights, indicators or brakes before making a long journey.
The issue was most acute among younger drivers, with a third of 17 to 24 year-olds not confident how to check brakes are working properly. More than 60 per cent of 17 to 34-year-olds have driven when they knew there was a problem with their car.
Men performed better than women in terms of making maintenance checks. But male respondents were also more prone to knowingly driving a vehicle with problems.