/ Travel & Leisure

Peugeot ‘exploding’ seatbelts: car safety rules need a total recall

Driver plugging in seatbelt

A Which? investigation into cases of ‘exploding’ Peugeot seatbelts shows that the UK car recall system isn’t tough enough. When a small number of seatbelts start ‘exploding’, surely it’s time to investigate? Apparently not…

We recently learned of four incidents in which Peugeot 307 CC owners claimed seatbelt mechanisms ‘exploded’ during normal driving.

The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA), which is responsible for issuing car safety recalls in the UK has decided not to recall the Peugeot convertible, saying the alleged problem is ‘not classed as a safety defect’.

VOSA should investigate

When we asked why not, VOSA referred us to its code of practice, which states:

‘A safety defect is defined as a feature of design or construction which is liable to cause significant risk of personal injury. It is an issue that happens suddenly and without warning.’

Essentially, VOSA’s statement seems to rest on the ‘without warning’ element, as it went on to say:

‘Peugeot’s investigation shows the issue in question was preceded by warnings from the car’s on-board warning systems and would therefore not be classed as a safety defect.’

To me, there are two issues here:

One: VOSA seems to be relying on Peugeot’s investigation. Why isn’t it carrying out its own investigations? Asking carmakers to highlight safety problems on their own cars cannot be a reliable way to operate.

Two: Only one of the affected owners we know of actually remembered seeing a warning light prior to the incident, just seconds before it happened. That’s hardly much of a warning – after all, if a light flashed up on your dashboard, would you instantly stop the car, and brace yourself for a loud bang?

Large loophole needs closing

With so many people failing to maintain or care for their own cars, I can see why there’s a mention of ‘without warning’ in the rules. But in its current wording, it amounts to a massive loophole that leaves VOSA impotent – hardly reassuring considering it’s meant to protect our safety.

Have you ever had a problem with your car that you think is a safety risk? Do you think the system needs to be changed?


Conversely if VOSA responded to every issue like this then they would be completely swamped.

I’m not saying that there wasn’t an issue, it’s just that people like to over-egg their claims in order to claim some kind of compensation that they feel “entitled” to, conveniently ignoring or forgetting that there was a warning light on the dash prior to the incident. Look at the recent recalls for Toyotas and how mad the public went in trying to obtain “compensation”.

Another factor you haven’t considered is that they drive a Peugeot….

Ironically now participating in a forum around VW cars (Jetta, Golf… I suspect not new models) where the door can stick.

What kicked it off was that the company knew about it.

Post Pinto, is not being able to get out of cars through a design fault not a bit of an issue potentially?

Interesting where the counter ‘it’s nothing… too much bother.. mountain out of a molehill’ comments come from.

Irony, and karma’s sense of humour, dictate that one day they find they are in the wrong seat at the wrong time.

It’s nothing to do with karma. A raised paving slab can potentially kill a person if they trip on it and fall into the road.

To insinuate that the manufacturer/CEO will get killed as a result of this is extremely harsh and entirely disproportionate.

A raised paving slab can indeed be dangerous.

Which is why, I believe, that once identified as such there is an obligation to address it, and potential legal consequences for not doing so.

Hence one might feel there may be something to design faults that companies are, or are made aware of, but prove… resistant to looking at too much or too fast when weighing cost vs. safety.

As to how the rest got projected from what was written took some doing, but kudos.

I take your point, but you are placing too much emphasis on safety. Just because it’s a seatbelt doesn’t mean that it’s any less or more important than anything else on the car. “Exploding” could mean anything in the context of a defect report.

I used the paving slab example to illustrate how obsessed we are with safety in this country. I lived and worked in Holland and the paving slabs are all over the place and there’s nothing like the hysteria. We have adopted the american blame culture, which is why we are so detached from Europe who still retain the ability to be responsible for their actions. By being so obsessed with safety we are stunting the evolution of humans, the ability to learn from our mistakes.

One of the many facets of my job is defect management. Part of that is to placate the user/reporter that either a) something is being done about it or b) the issue isn’t as important as they like to think. Unless you have the exact steps that the user took to create the fault, you are largely guessing what happened. If the user says, “this broke, fix it” then there is the tendency to say “user error”. When repairs/recalls are so expensive, I am not surprised that this formula is implemented.

‘you are placing too much emphasis on safety’

Interesting notion.

As far as I can gather, in the instances cited, there are design aspects that appear counter-safe, are known, but no one is too fussed about.

That is a concern. Especially if cautions are ignored to the point of tragedy. Prevention has always seemed better to me than cure or, in this case, catching anything.

These seem to be flaws, and correctable. Ore at least worthy of further investigation.

I fear you are using too many straw men arguments on irrelevant and inappropriate other issues to be taken seriously, despite your claimed expertise.

And placating is seldom best achieved with dismissals and/or high-horse hyperbole.

You got to CEOs and death from what I wrote.

I was merely thinking it would be funny if a paid motor PR got stuck in the backseat when trying to catch a train en route to one of what one is sure would be many important meetings on issues such as this, when acting once with integrity might just be easier and better.

I note an odd lack of curiosity as to what the facts are still (I merely support the notion of finding out), whilst offering that even a lesser term than ‘exploding’, say ‘bursting’, might be less than optimal whilst conducting tons of metal at speed.

Andrew Dixon says:
27 December 2012

This has just happened to me last week and it is as if you have driven into a wall!
I am just trying to get Peugeot to reply to my calls and emails.

Claire says:
9 January 2014

This has just happened to me this morning and as above it was like hitting a brick wall! Thankfully I wasn’t on the motorway when this happened I think it would have been a very different story. It has injured my shoulder as I was lent forward when the seatbelt exploded and snapped me back. I think anyone saying it’s just one of those things is an idiot peugeot are responsible for something that has happened on several occasions in the exact same way and is causing pain and injury. Not to mention if it happened on the motorway and caused a pile up as no one would no this was the initial cause, because what the mechanism is actually doing is responding as if you are in a high speed collision so you would expect to find the seatbelt pretension to have blown anyway. Would be interesting to know how people have got on with claiming off peugeot they are looking at my car tomorrow and I have a solicitor calling me Monday who have won ten cases of this against peogeot

Where do i get assistance when it happens because mine just exploded today March 14 2019.

Please help,

Hey Lesogo,

Hopefully you’re ok and not injured?

Here’s what to do with the car:

– Check if your car has been recalled. You can do this here: https://campaigns.which.co.uk/product-safety/

– If your car has not been recalled, report this to the DVSA: https://forms.dvsa.gov.uk/Vsdr/create

– Contact Peugeot / the dealership where you bought the car to find out what they will do.

We’re keen to keep a log of the incident as well – you can tell us the whole story on our Product Safety campaign page: https://campaigns.which.co.uk/product-safety/