NCT operator told to trial new suspension test

Road safety chiefs have directed the NCT operator to trial a new vehicle suspension test after a grieving mother’s campaign exposed potentially deadly flaws in the system.

NCT operator told to trial new suspension test

Road safety chiefs have directed the NCT operator to trial a new vehicle suspension test after a grieving mother’s campaign exposed potentially deadly flaws in the system.

The Irish Examiner can reveal that the Road Safety Authority (RSA) has required NCT contractor Applus, in conjunction with its equipment supplier, to develop a “new suspension tester”, to trial it through a large-scale pilot project, and assess it by June 2021.

The move follows a landmark legal case in which Paula Murphy from Cork sued the NCT operator for negligence arising out of the death of her daughter, Amanda O’Flaherty, following a car crash in Cork in 2012.

The case exposed a serious flaw in how the NCT test assessed the suspension system in Amanda’s car. The legal matters have only concluded in recent months.

An RSA spokeswoman defended the NCT standards and its suspension testing regime which, it said, “meets and exceeds EU requirements”, and oversight of the overall system. And She confirmed the piloting of a new suspension test method, despite there being no requirement under EU legislation to do so.

“Ireland is, therefore, leading the way in terms of trialling new technologies for deployment,” she said.

Ms O’Flaherty, 26, suffered fatal injuries in a car crash near Fota, Cork, on December 29, 2012. She was pronounced dead the following day. She had been driving a 95-D registered vehicle she bought from a roadside dealer in mid-2012 for €600.

The seller had arranged for the vehicle to undergo an NCT in late May 2012, and a certificate was issued. However, an inquest into her death heard her vehicle was not roadworthy at the time of the accident, with defects in the rear suspension which would have made the vehicle unstable before and during cornering.

Motor assessor Liam Cotter examined the NCT results sheet and immediately identified a flaw in the NCT’s vehicle suspension testing regime which can allow defective suspensions to pass.

Ms Murphy sued Applus and, last month, at Cork Circuit Court, Judge Brian O’Callaghan held that Applus was negligent in passing a defective car they had examined and allowing it back on the road.

He awarded Ms Murphy and other members of the family €31,000 in what is thought to be the first successful case of its kind.

Applus withdrew its appeal in September, and the final legal issues have been resolved in recent weeks.

Mr Cotter said he is very encouraged by the RSA’s direction to the NCT contractor to trial the ‘phase shift’ suspension tester.

“I think it is a major step forward in the PTI [periodic technical inspections] suspension testing research,” he said.

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