100,000 motorists may have faulty windscreens
As many as 100,000 Irish motorists could be putting their lives at risk by driving cars with badly fitted windscreens, an Oireachtas committee has heard.
Representatives of Autoglass Ireland told the transport committee yesterday that there was a complete lack of regulation in the windscreen repair industry, which had led to the "safety of thousands of Irish motorists being potentially compromised".
The committee heard that some windscreen replacement operators use inferior materials and untrained staff in order to cut costs and win business from insurance companies who "steer" their business to providers who can offer the replacement service at the lowest cost.
"As a result of the tough economic times, we believe that the choice of 'preferred' replacement company by insurance companies is being increasingly determined by commercial factors, principally pricing, rather than quality and safety concerns," said Heiner Hertz of Autoglass Ireland - a large windscreen repair company.
Early in 2012, Autoglass commissioned an independent study on the extent of the problem. It found 35 per cent - or 36,000 - windscreens replaced each year had some quality or safety issue; while 14 per cent - or 18,000 - displayed serious safety issues. Over a five-year period up to 89,000 cars which have had their windscreens replaced would have significant safety issues.
Among the issues highlighted were windscreens fitted without necessary equipment and components, and serious safety issues where the windscreen could just be pushed out by hand.
The committee heard that windscreens in modern cars account for up to 30 per cent of the structural integrity and, if fitted correctly, can prevent roofs collapsing if a car rolls over. Passenger-side airbags also need the support of the windscreen in order to work correctly, Mr Hertz said.
The problem was described as an "invisible one" which would only manifest itself in the event of a crash or the windscreen being replaced for a second time. One of the key problems highlighted was the types of adhesives being used to secure windscreens.
The committee was told that bathroom sealants unsuited for windscreen repair can hold the windscreen in place initially but erode over time.
Mr Hertz said motorists were being threatened with financial penalties unless they used their insurance companies' preferred suppliers and he said research showed that some low-cost suppliers were using inferior materials and incorrect practices. "Corners are being cut and the lives of motorists are being put at risk," he said.
Fianna Fáil's Tom Dooley proposed improved NCT testing to establish if windscreens were properly fitted.