British drivers are not carrying out basic motor vehicle checks and maintenance because they fear increasingly complex automotive technology.

An RAC report suggests that motorists are becoming too reliant on other people to fix problems and more than half are afraid of opening the bonnet. The RAC says that because 97% of drivers automatically rely on someone else to tackle their motoring trouble-shooting and maintenance, a quarter of all patrol call-outs could have been averted if owners had simply read their car handbooks.

Basic misinterpretation of warning lights accounts for a third of all call-outs, while only a fifth of drivers carry out routine tyre, oil and water checks. Most RAC patrolmen have also expressed concern about the number of vehicles not carrying a spare tyre.

Interestingly, the use of devices such as satnav and audio devices were blamed for the sharp rise in battery-related breakdowns.

RAC ops manager Sam Hudson said: "Throughout the last decade a huge number of innovations have been introduced to make the experience of driving safer and more enjoyable".

"However, these same technologies have distanced owners from their vehicle, as many motorists fear damaging sensitive, and often expensive, devices. This has created a mindset in which drivers would rather do nothing, than risk causing harm to their vehicle. But drivers could save themselves valuable time, money and the distress of a breakdown by investing just a little time in better understanding their vehicle."

Elsewhere, rival roadside assistance firm Green Flag criticised plans to change MOT laws. Under proposals announced by chancellor Gordon Brown, MOT certificates may only need to be renewed every two years and new cars may not need one at all until reaching five years old.

Green Flag said it feared that relaxing the rules would encourage more people to drive unroadworthy vehicles.