All UK registered vehicles along with road tax, insurance and MOT test status are kept on computer databases. The DVLA uses their own database as well as others, and their systems automatically check the status of each vehicle EVERY month. A vehicle without a valid MOT has its registration details automatically passed to the ANPR in police cars and to certain static roadside cameras.
The penalty for driving without an MOT is not too severe if dealt with swiftly, and no points are issued, although a fine is imposed by the courts to a maximum £1000.
A fixed penalty notice is the usual method from the police, costing the driver £60. Failure to pay, or repeat offenders, will receive a court summons and the fine will escalate and include court costs.
A valid MOT doesn't always mean a road worthy vehicle. A vehicle with defective brakes, illegal tyres, or defective steering can bring higher fines and points on the driving licence. Example:
maximum fine for a car is £2500; plus
3 penalty points for EACH offence (ie 6 points for 2 tyres) and these points remain on the licence for four years
A common misconception is that driving without a valid MOT invalidates car insurance. The majority of insurance providers make no mention of the MOT, and stipulate in their terms and conditions that the vehicle must be road worthy. A few companies stipulate a valid MOT must be present in the event of a claim, but generally for small claims the insurance company will not ask to see the MOT. For large claims, however, where the vehicle might be a right-off, things may get complicated if no MOT has been issued for a while. Not having an MOT does not give grounds not to honour a claim. In many situations it can be argued that the nature of the accident was driver error, and not vehicle failure. The lack of a vallid MOT would simply result in the reduction of the claim settlement.