Van owners urged to take SMR seriously

AXA Business Insurance reveals a lack of proper van maintenance could mean a four-fold (plus) increase in accident levels.

The insurer, which provides cover for more than 130,000 vans in the UK, has gathered data from van drivers showing a direct relationship between servicing and accidents.

The numbers suggest that, while 90% of van owners get their vehicles serviced at least once a year, there are 6% who never get their vans serviced. And, among that 6%, nine out of ten have had five or more accidents in the last five years against an average of less than one in five (17%) who have had a similar volume of prangs.

Drivers involved in accidents where the cause is found to be attributable to their lack of vehicle maintenance may well find that any claim they make is turned down.

Darrell Sansom, managing director of AXA Business Insurance says: "While the majority of van owners and drivers behave and drive responsibly, unfortunately there are some who clearly do not take their safety, or the safety of others seriously. This could be because they simply forget about maintenance, or they are worried about the costs.

"But as an insurer, we do know that a number of accidents are caused because a vehicle has not been maintained properly and is therefore not roadworthy."

AXA is also concerned that among those who fail to maintain their vans, there is a similar lack of responsibility taken in relation to MOT testing. This, in turn, implies a lack of insurance.  Of those who service their vans less than once a year, only just over half (56%) are confident that their MOT is up to date. In contrast, among those who get a regular service, more than 90% are confident that their MOT is valid.

And the insurer is keen to point out that while regular servicing is key, ongoing maintenance is also vitally important to the roadworthiness and safety of the vehicle - over half of all van owners admitted to having chips in their windscreens and around a quarter to having unrepaired damage to exhausts, bumpers or mirrors. All of which can lead to the vehicle becoming unroadworthy and dangerous.

Sansom added: "Estimates suggest that a third of all traffic accidents in the UK involve someone who is at work at the time and may account for over 20 fatalities a week  We know that a number of these will involve those driving vans for work and we would urge that they all think carefully about their responsibility to others on the road .

"Van drivers have traditionally had a bad reputation among other drivers but these statistics show that it is the minority who are tarnishing the image of the majority who take their responsibilities as road users very seriously."

AXA warns that some common problems that can cause accidents include bald tyres, worn brakes or a damaged chassis all of which can manifest themselves in the vehicle becoming out of control. Meanwhile the Highway Code recommends that core maintenance, such as checking tyre pressure and fluid levels, is done on a weekly basis.

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