Hello and welcome to Letters to Doug, your weekly question-and-answer column with me, Doug, a self-described automotive expert in the sense that I have owned more automobiles than I have fingers and toes.
If you’re interested in participating in Letters to Doug with your own question, please send me an e-mail at Letters2Doug@gmail.com. I tried to get “LettersToDoug,” but it was already taken, proven the old adage that “The early bird gets the Letters to Doug e-mail address.”
Anyway, on to this week’s letter, which comes to us from a person in the United Kingdom named Charles. (This is what everyone in the United Kingdom is named.) Charles writes:
In the UK we have to have our cars inspected every year to make sure our cars are safe to be on the roads. This started because in post war Germany people were having accidents due to driving unsafe vehicles so the British army created a test called a MOT. We have to have one so we can insure the car. This means that road user who obey the law drives a car that is safe and hopefully insured.
I have been in many country’s that don’t have an mot and a majority of the vehicles are and accident waiting to happen but I have to accept that they are poor third world country’s. Where as the United States of America would be classed as a first world country. Why can’t the government tell the 50 states that the vehicles need to pass a mandatory inspection to be driven on public roads
Sent from my iPhone
Ah, Charles, you’ve asked a good question: one that transcends simple automotive inquiry and cuts right into the hearts and minds of the differences between British and American citizenry. Fortunately, I am the perfect person to answer this question because I have considerable experience with both countries, in the sense that a) I have been an American citizen my whole life, and b) I once visited London when I was a child, and I remember looking up at Big Ben and thinking: I cannot yet tell time on one of those clocks.
So before I answer your question, I must tell you that the rest of the world sort of sees the U.K. as a bit of a nanny state. What I mean here is that I don’t think anyone would really be surprised if the U.K. changed its official name from The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Helicopter Parents. The new coat of arms would include protective swimming goggles.
Now, before you get up in arms here, allow me to cite a few examples. Number one: you have speed cameras everywhere. And I mean everywhere. Public housing projects have speed cameras in the hallways to make sure children aren’t running too fast.
Number two: you have regular cameras everywhere. A person cannot walk around the U.K. without being captured on some sort of CCTV camera. If the current situation had been in place when Stonehenge was built, they never would’ve gotten the first rock in place. They would’ve been spotted on CCTV, detained by police, and fined thousands of pounds by Health and Safety regulators for using an unlicensed truck to transport unlicensed rocks.
Number three: the U.K. has instituted porn filters on the Internet. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen: if you want to see porn on the Internet in the U.K., you have to call your Internet service provider and actually let them know that you want to opt in to the porn websites. This is a telephone call you have to make, to some woman sitting in a giant call center in Scotland. “Hello Charles,” she will say. “My name is Charles. I hear you want to watch hardcore gay pornography on the Internet?”
So the U.K. has developed something of a reputation for being a bit obsessed with safety, which is why it doesn’t surprise me that there’s an annual government inspection to determine the roadworthiness of automobiles. Here’s how I suspect conversations go, when it’s time for your yearly inspection with the mechanic:
Mechanic: I’m sorry, Charles, but I have to fail you. Your platypus rod is out of whack.
Customer: Damn you, Charles! I would punch you right now, if we weren’t on camera!
Stonehenge: Can I opt in to see the porn websites?
Whereas here in the U.S., we are the opposite of a nanny state. What I mean by this is, we allow people to do pretty much whatever they want, whenever they want, including shoot their fellow citizens in the face with unlicensed firearms. That’s the American way! we say, giggling with the glee that only a free man can understand, as we head off to our lawyer’s office to declare medical bankruptcy.
So my point here is that Americans would never stand for an annual vehicle inspection system dictated by the federal government. In fact, the joy of America’s brilliant democratic system is that such legislation could never get passed in the first place. What would happen is, Congress would attempt to pass it, but we Americans would rise up, and protest, and demonstrate, and complain about the ineptitude, and greed, and incompetence of Congress. And then we would re-elect 94 percent of them every couple years anyway.
No, I’m just kidding. What would really happen is, the Democrats would immediately complain that such a policy would unjustly punish poor people, because they’re the ones driving around in older cars that won’t comply with the new rules. And Republicans would immediately complain that such a policy unjustly punishes them, because there would probably be a regulation stating that you can no longer jack your pickup truck to the same height as a two-story building. And then Congress would kill the bill in committee, while simultaneously passing one that recognizes May 23 as National Lamp Shade Awareness Day.
Interestingly, Charles, I should note that some states do have vehicle inspections. Here in Pennsylvania, for instance, I recently had to get my Range Rover inspected. What happened was, I brought it in to a state-regulated inspection facility, and the guy behind the counter was watching Russian dash cam videos on YouTube, so he told me to hold on for a few minutes until he finished. (I swear this is true.) Then he asked me if I modified my Range Rover, and I said no, so he marked “PASSED” on the state inspection form without ever actually opening the hood. Then he charged me eighty bucks.
So I think you can see that we have things pretty well covered here in America, Charles, and we clearly don’t need any help from you. Now if you will excuse me, I’m off to go celebrate National Lamp Shade Awareness Day.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn’t work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.