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?